The European Parliament’s disapproval of Rocco Buttiglione is about to test to the full the political wits of the man who wants to make him the EU’s Commissioner for Justice. The European Commissioner-designate was rejected by the Parliament after expressing conservative views on gays and women.
The devout Catholic has depicted himself as victim of a secular “Inquisition”. If he quits, the three-way current crisis involving the EU institutions and Rome could deepen. The Italian’s beliefs are a serious problem for Jose Manuel Barroso. The Commission President needs to convince Parliament leaders that his team choices deserve their backing. In Berlin, he had this to say on the eve of this Thursday’s make-or-break meeting with them: “I do not wish to comment now on individual commissioners, but I’d like to make it clear: I am very attached to tolerance, and respect of all points of view, but I’m also fully committed to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.” Analysts say the Portuguese head of the new Commission will want to maintain his own authority at the same time as demonstrating respect for the Parliament. Its second-largest force, the Socialists, are threatening to vote against the entire team unless Barroso replaces Buttiglione as justice chief. Meanwhile, the Italian is threatening to sue Britain’s Daily Telegraph over a report on an old money-laundering investigation involving him in Monaco.