21st Jun 2021

Barroso could be voted down by MEPs on procedural grounds

  • The European Parliament will meet in mid-July for its constitutive session (Photo: EUobserver)

Any attempt by EU leaders this week to formally nominate Jose Manuel Barroso for a second term as European Commission will come a cropper in the European Parliament on procedural grounds, a senior MEP warned on Tuesday (16 June).

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the Greens faction, said he believed there was a "sufficient majority" in the EU assembly to block Mr Barroso when the issue goes to vote in mid-July.

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"If we are to vote in July, then the debate will be on procedure," he said, adding that an alliance of "Liberal Democrats, Greens, Socialists and the far left" would be enough.

Parliament is up in arms because a decision this week by EU leaders to formally back Mr Barroso would fall under the current Nice Treaty rules, whereas it voted in May by overwhelming majority to try and appoint the commission president under the terms of the yet-to-be-ratified Lisbon Treaty.

The fate of the Lisbon Treaty is set to become clearer in October, when Ireland votes on it in a referendum. All other member states have completed parliamentary ratification.

"If the Council decides under the Treaty of Nice to formally decide to nominate Barroso, then the Council on 17 July risks finding itself with a negative vote, not on Barroso, but on procedure," said Mr Cohn-Bendit.

He indicated that if the parliament did not stand up for itself now, then it would be downtrodden by member states and the commission for its whole five-year mandate.

His warning comes just days after that of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, head of the European Socialists, who also warned EU leaders to "be careful" and to "respect" the parliament.

Mr Cohn-Bendit dismissed arguments that not giving a clear signal on a possible second mandate would give a lameduck feel to the remaining months of the current commission, due to finish in October.

However, the Green MEP, a fierce critic of Mr Barroso, admitted that by September some new names might have emerged.

He said he had a few ideas for candidates himself – alluding to both Mr Rasmussen and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt – but said it was too early to reveal them.

"If we put the names into the ring now we'll blow them out of the water."

The issue is shaping up to be a real political tussle among member states themselves and with the parliament.

Incoming EU presidency Sweden says it wants full formal backing for Mr Barroso so it has a real partner to work with on major issues such as climate change when it takes over on 1 July.

But Germany and France are reluctant to do this so they continue to have leverage over Mr Barroso when it comes to choosing portfolios for their future commissioners as well as over any plans he has for the commission's five year programme.

The issue will be played out at the two-day council in Brussels, beginning Thursday. In the face of strong opposition from the parliament, EU leaders are set to give Mr Barroso only political backing at the summit. They are then due to consult political leaders in the parliament next week.

The question is whether there will still be an attempt to give Mr Barroso legal certainty in July after the concerns of different factions in the parliament have been taken into account.

For his part Mr Barroso has urged to EU leaders to take a decision on the issue at the summit. He is due to reveal some of his ideas on a commission programme to the summit on Thursday.

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