28th Oct 2016

Next commission set for human rights post

  • The liberals and the socialists will make a final decision on Mr Barroso next Tuesday (Photo: EUobserver)

The next European Commission is likely to have a commissioner responsible for fundamental rights and civil liberties, it emerged after negotiations between Jose Manuel Barroso and liberal deputies in the European Parliament.

Trying to drum up support for a second term as commission president, Mr Barroso has this week appeared before political groups in the parliament to discuss his policies for the next five years.

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Summing up the meeting on Wednesday (9 September), liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt said the hearing had given rise to many "clarifications" after the group had been "unconvinced" by his proposed policies, published last week.

According to the Liberal, Mr Barroso, a centre-right politician, promised that he would "create a separate portfolio for fundamental rights and civil liberties."

Currently the commission has a justice, freedom and security commissioner, but critics have long argued that it is too broad to give enough attention to data protection issues as well as the pressing problem of immigration and the rights of migrants in member states - an issue that has come to the fore recently after Italy's controversial handling of Roma and immigrants from Africa.

A second post is expected to focus on interior security.

A single financial supervisor

Mr Barroso also committed to being more ambitious in tackling the aftermath of the economic crisis promising a review of the situation in three years time.

Mr Verhofstadt reported Mr Barroso as saying: "I shall then come forward with more ambitious ideas to create a European financial supervisor." The idea has been floated for several months but a recent commission-sponsored report on dealing with the economic crisis rejected the idea because it felt it would not be accepted by member states.

In addition, Mr Barroso also promised to have a "big fight" with member states on what is known in EU jargon as "own resources" or the creation of some sort of EU tax when the club's multi annual budget is next up for discussion.

Mr Verhofstadt, who along with the socialists was instrumental in postponing a planned July parliamentary vote on Mr Barroso in order to win policy concessions, indicated he was satisfied with the hearing.

He said the three issues were contained in the five-point list that the liberal group wanted from Mr Barroso.

No decision until Tuesday

However, the liberal chief said his group would not decide on whether to support Mr Barroso until he made the same three commitments before the entire plenary next Tuesday (15 September).

The decision means that both the liberals and the socialists, as third and second largest groups in the parliament respectively, will only make their positions on Barroso clear on Tuesday evening, just before the plenary vote, due on 16 September.

While he can count on the support of most the centre-right EPP deputies as well as those in the anti-federalist ECR group, Mr Barroso needs wider cross-party backing to secure the post. But as the ballot is secret and Mr Verhofstadt as well as the Socialists' Martin Schulz will have difficulty finding a unified group line on Mr Barroso - who remains a divisive figure for both political families - the result is likely to be close.

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