Friday

6th Dec 2019

Barroso fears powerful 'European president'

  • The EU's Lisbon Treaty has raised a whole series of questions about external representation (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has sided with smaller member states in trying to restrict the role of the proposed president of the European Council, a new post created by the Lisbon Treaty.

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday (7 October), Mr Barroso chastised MEPs for referring to the post as "president of Europe."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"I am sorry, there will not be a president of Europe. There will be, if we have Lisbon, the president of the European Council. It is important to understand that point because sometimes I think there are some ideas about certain derives institutionelles [institutional drifts]," he said.

Loosely defined in the treaty itself, talk about the nature of the president's role has become one of the main topics in Brussels in recent days, as national governments deliberate whether the post should go to a well-known personality from a big country or a more discreet politician.

The exact job description will be written by the first person holding the job, with ex British prime minister Tony Blair among the most-mentioned candidates for the post. It is widely agreed that a politician of Mr Blair's standing would take the post far beyond the largely administrative role foreseen in the treaty.

According to the treaty, which is still awaiting full ratification by all 27 member states, the president is supposed to chair the regular meetings of EU leaders - known as the European Council - and to drive forward their work.

Mr Barroso, who himself enjoys attending international summits on behalf of the EU, has a personal stake in the issue.

A powerful council president would upset the power balance in the EU and would likely see Mr Barroso relegated to a more much Brussels-based role.

The commission president has no formal powers in appointing the European Council president but he warned: "The European Commission will not accept the idea that the president of European Council is the president of Europe."

Mr Barroso's remarks came shortly after a leaked paper on the new Lisbon Treaty posts by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg underlined the importance of maintaining the "institutional balance" of the union. The paper has been interpreted in some quarters as an anti-Blair move.

Poland has also prepared a document on the role of the president of the European Council. Earlier this week, Polish Europe minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz indicated to EUobserver the limited role that Warsaw foresees for the new president.

"We have to recognise that the Polish minister of finance or agriculture will only take instructions from his prime minister. He will not take instructions from the president of the council," he said.

Some member states, such as France, have indicated they want to create a major player with the presidential job by appointing someone who can open doors in the US and China and who can give the EU some gravitas on the world stage.

Mr Blair's is not the only name that has been put forward in connection to the job. Other possible contenders mooted include Dutch leader Jan-Peter Balkenende; Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker and Felipe Gonzalez, a former Spanish prime minister.

Von der Leyen warns on EU budget cuts

The new EU Commission president will tell EU leaders next week that they need to put money behind their pledges for border protection, defence policy and fighting climate change.

Analysis

Von der Leyen team voted in by MEPs - amid warnings

The first female commission president and her (almost) gender-balanced team can take office on 1 December. Despite a large majority of MEPs backing the new commission, many warned that their support was not a "blank cheque".

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

EU gears up for post-Brexit renovation

Both EU member states and the parliament want to be ready in January with an agreement on how to involve citizens in a serious attempt to rethink the future of the EU. But institutional issues would come first.

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  2. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  3. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  4. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  5. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  6. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate
  7. Development to fuel change
  8. Does EU have role in stopping backsliding in Georgia?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us