Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

Van Rompuy and Barroso to both represent EU at G20

  • Two of the faces of Europe: Mr Barroso (l) and Mr Van Rompuy (r) (Photo: Council of European Union)

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy have decided who will speak on which subject when they both represent the union at international meetings such as the G20.

"The two presidents have decided that the EU delegation will be composed of both presidents in one single delegation. That's quite normal, as their roles are complementary," a spokeswoman for the European Commission said during a press briefing on Thursday (18 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

One of the novelties introduced by the EU's new treaty is that the permanent president of the EU Council, former Belgian premier Herman Van Rompuy, also represents the bloc abroad in foreign policy and security matters.

But in other areas, such as climate change, President Barroso will speak on behalf of the 27-member club.

In areas where the two overlap, for instance energy, which is both a security and a commission policy area, they will decide on a case-by-case basis who will take the floor.

"These practical arrangements will ensure full coherence, complementarity and clarity in the way we approach international gatherings, in reaching our objective that the EU should speak with one voice," Pia Ahrenskilde-Hansen, the commission's spokeswoman said.

She rejected the suggestion that Mr Barroso's powers were being chipped away by Mr Van Rompuy, who has so far kept a low public profile, and pointed to the obligations set out by the EU treaty.

Mr Barroso however did manage to secure one little victory, as his personal sherpa - jargon for the personal representative of a head of state of government who prepares an international summit - to the G20, Joao Vale de Almeida, will continue to do the job on behalf of both EU leaders for the next meeting, set to take place in South Korea in November.

After that, both Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso will have their own sherpas ahead of G8 and G20 meetings, while Mr Vale de Almeida will move on to become the EU's ambassador in Washington.

The commission's confidence that sending two representatives to "speak with one voice" at the G20 is a sensible solution is not shared by foreign policy experts.

"It's hard to see how other parties will interpret this. If we also count Spain, who will be there as well and is also chairing the rotating EU presidency, we'll have three seats in a place already overcrowded by Europeans," Jose-Ignacio Torreblanca from the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank told this website.

The G20 gathering includes four European countries: France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain. But in 2008, Spain and the Netherlands also secured extra seats, arguing that as a result of the size of their economies, they deserve to be in the room.

"We saw what happened in Copenhagen: The fact that there are a lot of Europeans in a room doesn't mean that they are being listened to," Mr Torreblanca commented, in reference to the UN climate change summit in the Danish capital, where Europeans were sidelined by the US and China.

Coronavirus

EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer

The European Commission has announced targets to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination, and the intention of "a common approach" on possible vaccine certificates. Both topics will be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday.

EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex

MEPs are drumming up support for an inquiry into the EU's controversial border and coast guard agency, Frontex. So far, the Greens, the left-wing GUE, and Renew Europe are on board - amid expectations the centre-left S&D will also join.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit prompted finance exodus from UK to France
  2. Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate
  3. Borrell washes hands of EU's Venezuela policy
  4. Russia backs Greece in eastern Mediterranean dispute
  5. 'Ski-holiday' Switzerland reaches new infection high
  6. Germany extends lockdown, others expected to follow
  7. Barnier to be Brexit special adviser to von der Leyen
  8. EU commisioner to visit Bosnia's Lipa migrant camp

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  2. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  3. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference
  4. EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex
  5. Untapped potential of the single market could boost European recovery
  6. Biden's 'Age of Aquarius'? Mars and Venus will clash over China
  7. The new dimension of 'ever-closer union'
  8. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us