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21st Oct 2018

Commissioners to plan next EU projects

  • Mr Barroso - will he be sitcking around Brussels until 2013? (Photo: europa.eu)

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso is gathering his team of commissioners this Thursday for a chat on the institution's plans for the remainder of its term, with insiders saying Mr Barroso already has his eyes fixed on a second innings as president.

In a Chateau south west of Brussels, the 27 commissioners are to map out what big policy areas still need to be tackled and what the general approach will be until the end of its mandate in just under two years time.

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But according to officials, Mr Barroso is already considering what his legacy will be in order to give himself a foot up before for the five-year commission presidency comes up again in 2009.

"The main goal [of the seminar] is to reflect on what the commission should focus on until the end of its term. Commissioners will be reminded that there's limited time for what the current college can achieve. So the commission should think more about what it will present as its key results in the end, and refrain at this point from opening too controversial issues or issues which can't be completed by the current [European Parliament]" said a high-ranking commission official.

"There's a feeling in the commission that such a debate will also serve Mr Barroso in his attempt to shift from one commission to the next - as it is quite a well-known thing that he will try to keep the job," he added.

Even if it battens down the hatches now and does not come up with any major new initiatives, the commission will still have its work cut out for it, just dealing with the open dossiers.

Among the most controversial are new proposals for breaking up the energy market in the EU - plans are to be unveiled next week - and the range of legislation needed to implement the Union's ambitious environment goals, including reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

It also has to manage a debate on reforming the EU's budget, a thorny topic that has member states divided along the trenchant line of more or less money for EU farmers, as well as to deal with the growing problem of immigrants trying to enter the EU.

Commission spokesperson Johannes Laitenberger says that the commissioners will "look at the work in the months to come" including on the environment, energy, immigration, social policy and the internal market review.

The EU's new reform treaty will "certainly" be discussed as it provides a "context" for all future commission actions, he added.

The treaty is meant to be finalised at the end of this year and its wider powers for the EU is set to give a boost to many of the fields that the commission is looking at, including justice and home affairs.

Another official notes that Mr Barroso will need to maintain a "fine balance" especially among the big member states, if he wants to retain the presidency.

The commission president is nominated by national governments in a behind-closed-doors tussle that usually leaves several rejected candidates in its wake.

So far Mr Barroso has steered a liberal economic course at the helm of the EU executive, backed up by several commissioners who share his economic point of view, including those in charge of the internal market, trade and competition.

But he is also pragmatic about his support base. Late last year, following pressure from France, he quashed a move by internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy to overhaul EU artists' levies after pressure from the then French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin.

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