The holidays start this weekend for the European Commission and its President, for one, is likely to be looking forward to a break.
It has been a tough year for Jose Manuel Durao Barroso.
His ability to lead was damaged from the start – Barroso was after all a compromise candidate. According to Stanley Crossick, founding president of the European Policy Centre, the difficulties he has suffered so far are not likely to go away. “I question whether, with the best will in the world, with the maximum ability, Barroso will really be able to show leadership at Brussels level,” he told EuroNews. Barroso has never been popular with France or Germany who see him as too liberal.
But now he is even facing criticism from within – some of his team including allies, say the Commission needs to be bolder. In his defence, Barroso could be seen as in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pascal Delwit from the Institute for European Studies, says the president has had to deal with major issues beyond his control, in particular the ratification of the European Constitution made more difficult after the French and Dutch No. Then there is the budget.
As for the controversial services directive, Delwit says that has become symbolic, with often hasty proposals that were not always appropriate but did generate a very tense political debate on the union in the Spring. While the overall outlook remains bleak there is some hope for the future. In September, Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is likely to be replaced by a Barroso ally, Angela Merkel. The support of at least one half of the former motor of Europe should make Barroso feel a little less isolated at least.