3rd Feb 2023

Liberals, Greens try to woo Socialists away from EU parliament right

With Europe's centre-right parties and some Socialist governments backing European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for a second mandate, smaller factions have begun calling for a change and throwing some fresh names into the ring.

"I and my friends will do what we can so that there is change at the head of the European Commission," whose orientation is "too ultra-neo-liberal," Francois Bayrou, leader of the centrist MoDem party in France, said on French Europe 1 radio over the weekend.

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  • Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt is one of the EDP's candidates to succeed Mr Barroso (Photo: European Commission)

He added that two names were proposed during a meeting of the European Democrat Party (EDP) last week. The EDP is a centrist and Euro-federalist political party whose MEPs sit with the Liberals in the European Parliament.

The EDP's candidates are former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt and Mario Monti, an Italian economist and former commissioner responsible for internal market (1995-1999) and competition (1999-2004).

"We can put forward other [names]" as well, Mr Bayrou underlined, calling on the Socialists to join the EDP's position.

"If the Socialist Party chose the same position as the one we are expressing, [for] a change at the head of the European Commission, there would be no majority to extend [the mandate of] Mr Barroso," he said.

"I am ready to say in any case that our forces must meet, must unite, so that there is change."

Separately, the Greens are encouraging the formation of a socialist-environmentalist bloc in the house in order to break with Mr Barroso.

Speaking to Reuters on Tuesday (12 May), Greens co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is currently a German MEP, but is leading the Europe-Ecologie list in France, said that one of the Greens' goals was also to create "another majority" in the parliament and to have another commission president elected.

Mr Barroso is "the spokesperson of the big governments and not of the commission, which is the expression of the general European interest," Mr Cohn-Bendit said.

"Barroso always passively follows big [governments], it is always the last big [government] which is right. He has a hyper-neo-liberal ideal, but most of all, he has a devastating practice. So, we say we need another [president]," he added.

Red-Green alliance

In a press release on Tuesday, the Franco-German politician called for a Red-Green alliance with the Socialists, as opposed to the traditional "grand coalition" between the Socialists and the EPP within the European Parliament, in order to prevent Mr Barroso from obtaining a second mandate.

"The major challenge after the elections will be to secure a majority in the European Parliament around a Red-Green core. This majority can counter Barroso and also determine the new president of the European Parliament," Mr Cohn-Bendit said.

For his part, the president of the Socialists in the house, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, reacted by saying that it is "too early to speculate about the composition of new majorities in the European Parliament."

"What is clear is that if a new majority is possible then Barroso, who is not the candidate of the PES, would not become commission president," he added.

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