This week’s EU summit will see what sort of endorsement Jose Manuel Barroso gets in his bid for a second term as President of the European Commission. His bid already has strong momentum within the bloc’s Council of leaders.
The latest to give the Portuguese conservative clear backing are Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and France’s President Sarkozy — after others of the centre right and left. The appointment of a head of the EU executive body is the European Council’s prerogative, but it needs the approval of the Parliament, and an anti-Barroso front is brewing in the newly-formed assembly. He has mostly support in the still-dominant group of the centre-right, but the Liberals and Socialists are a mixed bag. The new legislature is more fragmented than the last. Mustering a majority for or against the Council’s choice is a far from clear-cut task. The rallying call for Greens co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, whose group has gained seats, is simply: ‘Stop Barroso’. Cohn-Bendit said: “I believe that the liberal democrat, Green, socialist and extreme left majority is sufficient to say ‘no’ when the procedure comes around in July. There are capable personalities who will emerge after such time as we have blocked Barroso. That is always the way it works. If we say their names now, we burn their chances.” Yet a remark from political analyst Pascal Delwit casts doubt on the prospect that a single contender for the top Commission job will suit all parties: Delwit said: “In the European Parliament, opposition to renewal of a mandate is not necessarily a majority opposition, much less a homogenous one. There is not necessarily a single personality who unites the important socialist, green and liberal groups.” Barroso was not given an easy ride when he won his first appointment in 2004, and today he is faced with a more powerful European Parliament, whose members will be keen to show their authority in the system of institutional checks and balances.