Thursday, September 17, 2009

Barroso finally gets second term mandate

Jose Manuel Barroso has been given the support from the European Parliament to start a second mandate as President of the European Commission.

Mr Barroso secured 382 votes in support of his nomination (more than the 269 threshold he would have need in the muhc tougher conditions that would have been set by the Lisbon Treaty). There were 219 votes against and the remainder abstained.

The vote was held in a secret ballot but in reality, Mr Barroso was already assured of three large political groups. Last week, he had met the leaders of the EPP Group (centre-right and the largest group in the Parliament), ALDE (including the UK liberal democrats) and the ECR (including UK Conservatives) who had pledged support for him at the vote earlier today. The ALDE Group leader, Guy Verhofstadt (former Belgian Premier and a contender for Commission President last time round when he had lost out to Barroso) had withheld support until he was able to secure some important concessions for his Group. One of the concessions made to Verhofstadt was to create a special Commissioner post for justice and civil liberties – as well as pledge a new economic recovery plan and a single financial market regulator.

In a three hour debate yesterday, Mr Barroso spelt out his concessions to ALDE on top of his earlier manifesto pledges. They included root and branch EU funding reform in order to source further funding from Member State governments for the Commission and a common approach to migration. Its not clear what the UK conservative-dominated ECR Group - which is also supporting Barroso - think of these concessions.

Mr Barroso stopped short of offering anything substantial to the Socialist Group parties – such as their demands for a new Posting of Workers Directive – although he did say he would look into how best to bring about a new framework for public services

The response from leading figures in the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) has been very negative – Leader of the S&D Group, Martin Schutz says that Barroso’s Presidency would be the weakest in the EU’s history. He has clearly forgotten all about Jacques Santer.

Earlier this month, Mr Barroso issued a 41 page document “Political Guidelines for the next Commission” which set out his priorities for the next term. However, they did not differ from what he had set out in a two page letter to Government leaders in July.

In his document, Barroso proposes that the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs, the renewed social agenda, the Stability and Growth Pact, competition and state aid policy, the Sustainable Development Strategy, the climate change and energy strategy, the European Research Area, and the Hague and now the Stockholm programmes on justice and home affairs, all be "channelled" to deliver by 2020 “the kind of social market economy that he says Europeans are calling for”.

Barroso now has to start the difficult task of building a team of Commissioners around him – based on Member State nominations but subject to European Parliament approval.

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