Friday

18th Oct 2019

Barroso fails to convince critics in parliament speech

  • The Barroso re-appointment soap opera is drawing to a close (Photo: European Commission)

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday (15 September) went head to head with MEPs in a lively debate over his bid for a second term in office but failed to win over his critics.

The conservative Portuguese politician presented his policy programme to the plenary in Strasbourg in his trademark mixture of French and then English, speaking at first in generalities about the state of Europe in the world before moving on to a few specific proposals, such as the creation of separate commissioners for migration and fundamental rights.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The lengthy speech, which contained some overtures to his left-wing opponents, appeared to leave the status quo in the parliament unchanged.

Directly afterwards, the centre-right EPP confirmed its support for him as did the Liberals - although they called their backing conditional - and the antifederalist ECR group.

The three groups look likely to ensure Mr Barroso the simple majority he needs when his mandate goes to vote at midday on Wednesday (16 September.)

However, the Socialists, as second largest group in the parliament after the EPP, said they would not back him, as did the Greens and the far left.

The eurosceptic Freedom and Democracy group also indicated it would not back Mr Barroso, citing his support for the Lisbon Treaty, the proposed new institutional rulebook for the Union.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialists, accused Mr Barroso of "always help(ing) to serve governments" while Green leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit sarcastically noted: "Apparently everything is changing and Barroso is the guarantor of stability."

In his speech, Mr Barroso said he would propose a new law governing workers posted in other member states, make social impact assessments a norm and make a "comprehensive legislative proposal on the working time directive" - a law that regulates working hours but from which member states can exempt themselves.

These were sweeteners aimed directly at the Socialists, whose only weapon in the Barroso vote is the extent to which he wants multipartisan backing rather than just right-wing and eurosceptic support.

Mr Schulz warned that his group would also be instrumental when Mr Barroso is looking to put together his team of commissioners and will be closely looking at who gets what portfolio.

Lively debate

The debate was lively and, for European Parliament standards where consensual and polite politics between the main groups rules, at times quite personal.

Both Mr Cohn-Bendit and Mr Schulz rounded on Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt for his group's change from the anti-Barroso to the pro-Barroso camp.

Meanwhile Mr Barroso, who has been under sustained attack by Mr Cohn-Bendit since he was nominated by all EU governments in June, said: "You have an unhealthy obsession with me. I am certainly not obsessed by you."

Rounding off the afternoon's debate, Mr Barroso admitted that he would "prefer to have the support of the main political families."

"But some of them are excluding themselves from that. That's their choice," he added.

Referring to his policy guidelines that his critics accused of either being more of the same policies that contributed to the current financial crisis or too lacking in ambition, Mr Barroso replied: "Of course it's a compromise, but Europe only works on a compromise."

"At least give me the benefit of the doubt," he said, with the leaders of the Liberal and Socialist groups set to make their final positions on the Barroso vote clear on Tuesday evening.

Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker described a decision to block Albania and North Macedonia from advancing into the next phase to eventually join the European Union as a historic mistake.

EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate

Climate change was part of the agenda of the EU leaders for Friday's summit. However, the council decided to finalise the EUʼs long-term strategy on climate change at its next meeting in December.

EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Remarks to Congress by the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, have shed light on the unusual nature of American diplomacy under president Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

EU parliament quietly hoards visitors' wi-fi data

The European Parliament is retaining the data of everyone who uses their wi-fi network, including journalists and visitors, and providing access to national authorities in case of investigations.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us