EU leaders give 'unanimous' support to Barroso reappointment
By Honor Mahony
EU leaders have given unanimous political backing for Jose Manuel Barroso to become president of the European Commission for a second time, putting an end to months of speculation about his candidacy.
Czech Prime minister Jan Fischer, currently in charge of the EU, said there was "broad and unanimous support" for the centre-right Portuguese politician, who presented some of his plans for his second mandate during a dinner with EU leaders on Thursday evening (18 June).
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A clearly-relieved Mr Barroso, who first put out feelers for a second mandate two years ago, said: "what can I say to you except I am extremely proud of the unanimous support I received."
He explained that he got backing from all 27 governments because he has always shown "respect" to all member states regardless of size or geography.
The draft conclusions of the summit say that EU leaders all agreed Mr Barroso is the "the person they intend to nominate as President of the European Commission for the period 2009-2014."
Responding to vociferous complaints received from left-wing and green deputies in the European Parliament in the run-up to the summit, he said he was "used to being criticised."
But he also pledged to avoid creating a right wing-oriented commission. "Europe has to be a cross-party project," he said. "It has to be political but not too partisan."
Mr Fischer said he would begin consultations with political leaders in the European Parliament next week but urged that the nomination of Mr Barroso should "take as little time as possible."
For their part, the group leaders in the parliament will vote on 9 July to determine whether the Barroso decision should be put on the agenda of the first session of the newly elected parliament in mid-July.
The support in parliament will be conditional on the sort of policy agenda Mr Barroso intends to have over the coming five years - the socialists, as the second largest faction in the EU assembly, want some guarantees on what they see as a too business and industry-oriented approach.
On Thursday, Mr Barroso said his two main priorities would be tackling the economic crisis and climate change.
If he is approved by parliament in July, he will become the "commission president designate," a commission official told EUobserver.
The remainder of his team would be nominated in autumn after Ireland's second vote on the Lisbon Treaty. Mr Barroso would become commission president fully only when he and his whole team are voted on by parliament in late autumn, the official added.
While there was progress on the Barroso issue, leaders postponed discussion on Ireland's Lisbon treaty guarantees until Friday.
Ireland wants the guarantees - on tax, neutrality and ethical issues, designed to persuade voters to say Yes to the treaty the second time round - to have the form of a protocol that would eventually be enshrined in EU law.
But some member states are wary the move could re-open debate on ratification of the modified treaty. The issue is especially sensitive in the UK, where a galloping Conservative opposition party has suggested it may call a referendum.
"We shall be able to provide robust guarantees ...without opening the Lisbon treaty," said Mr Fischer in anticipation of Friday's debate.