Barroso blames capitals for plunge in EU popularity
Faced with a plunging popularity of the EU institutions, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has blamed national capitals for not defending the European project during the economic crisis.
The devastating results of a Eurobarometer published last week showing that support for EU institutions is waning across the continent are due to the economic crisis, argued Mr Barroso in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. He said it is "normal" that citizens' confidence is dropping during such times.
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According to the survey carried out in May and published last week, fewer than half of Europe's citizens (49 percent) think that their country's membership of the EU is a "good thing" – a seven-year low - while trust in the bloc's institutions has dropped to 42 percent, six points down compared to autumn 2009.
"I admit that we should do more together in order to give confidence to citizens and consumers. But I also want to tell the truth: We won't solve the problems unless each nation sees the European project as its own," the Portuguese politician said.
"In fact this is not the case now. When things go well it's their merit and when they go wrong it's Brussels' fault," he added.
The commission chief defended the euro as an "extraordinary success" and pointed to the fact that none of the EU countries could have weathered the financial crisis with their national currency alone.
"Without the euro and the internal market none of the member states would have managed to get out of the crisis ... all governments should now defend the euro," he said.
With US president Barack Obama also calling for a stronger Europe, Mr Barroso noted: "It is very important that this request comes from abroad, from one of our most important partners."
"Imagine if France, Germany or Italy would have to move on their own in a globalised world. They would not be able to protect their interests."
On the subject of stronger EU economic governance - a development currently under discussion by a taskforce of experts - Mr Barroso explained it should mean more co-ordination among member states: "A strategy needs to be accepted in the end. There is no other credible way than going further with co-ordination while also accepting the prerogatives of national parliaments [in adopting the national budget]."
With France continuing its controversial expulsions of Roma, Mr Barroso was also asked if he fears a wider anti-Roma vortex caused by immigration policies in Paris and Rome.
"I am convinced it will not be the case. Our main preoccupation is to ensure freedom of movement without discrimination," he said. "Common sense will prevail."
Greece was allowed to cheat
In another interview published by the Austrian paper Die Presse on Wednesday (1 September), former EU commission chief Romano Prodi also deplored the lack of "European spirit," particularly in the context of the Greek bail-out, agreed after months of foot-dragging by other eurozone states.
"Yes, the Greeks cheated. But you can only cheat if you are allowed to. When the euro was created, there was no will to put in place control mechanisms requested by the European Commission," he said, referring to the refusal of member states to allow external controls by Eurostat, the bloc's statistics office.
While commission president, Mr Prodi famously called the stability and growth pact - the rules underpinning the euro - "stupid."
"I criticised the pact because it is nothing more than a mathematical formula. It is useless if there are no politics and no control instruments ensuring it is respected," he said of his 2002 remark.