26th Mar 2019

Barroso considered resigning as commission chief

  • Jose Manuel Barroso - lining himself up for a second innings at the commission? (Photo: Portuguese EU presidency 2007)

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has admitted he considered resigning from the top Brussels job amid infighting among EU member states over institutional reform in the bloc.

Mr Barroso told Germany's Vanity Fair he had thought about throwing in the towel but then decided against it as it would have been too "theatrical."

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Asked by the weekly magazine whether the protracted fighting during recent months over the new EU treaty - particularly between Germany and Poland - had made him think about quitting, he replied:

"Sometimes one does think about that, yes. This is the first time that I am saying this. Every now and then I thought about saying to the member states 'Look, either we think about the common good, or ...' But I did not do it in the end because I found it too theatrical."

Explaining the background for this thoughts, the Portuguese former prime minister, referred to the political aftermath of the rejection of the original EU constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

For over a year the EU ignored the thorny topic of institutional reform before putting it back on the table at the beginning of the year under the German EU presidency, promptly re-opening national fighting, culminating in a reference by Warsaw to the millions of Poles killed in World War II being used as an argument for getting more voting power.

"When voters decide in a referendum that they do not want something, then that is democracy. But when EU leaders can achieve something but, for national interests, do not find the will for an agreement, then they should take responsibility for this," said Mr Barroso.

But whatever thoughts he previously had about resigning, Mr Barroso left the door open for a second time as head of the commission.

Asked about whether he would like to continue beyond 2009 for another five year term, Mr Barroso said "oh that is topic that has to be spoken about later."

He said he was proud over what the commission has achieved so far saying that its 27 members amounted to a "good team."

Looking ahead to 2009, when the new EU treaty is supposed to be in place, and the introduction of two additional powerful posts to the EU scene - a foreign minister and a permanent EU president - Mr Barroso said that how the three managed to carve the political stage between "will depend on the person."

Under Mr Barroso's watch, the job as head of the commission has become much more presidential and it is his name that is linked with all the major initiatives undertaken by the commission, such as on energy and climate change, rather than the specific commissioner involved.

Mr Barroso has also been sure to take on board the concerns of major member states - that would be instrumental in his securing the influential post for a second time round.

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