European socialists have stepped up their opposition to picking Jose Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission as early as September.
Those unhappy with the selection procedure met in Strasbourg, bringing the prospect of another month without a figure at the head of the EU’s executive body. The socialists say they will listen to him in September, but it is too soon to vote him back for another five years. The vice-president of the Socialist and Democrat group, Hannes Swoboda, said: “The official candidate of the Council can make a proposal in September, he can have a speech and we can have a debate, then Mr Barroso perhaps can work on his programme. Then if the decision is taken in October, it’s taken in October. This does not pre-empt our decision ‘yes or no.’ It’s just on the procedure, we are still not ready to vote in September.” Barroso has the backing of all 27 EU leaders, and wants an early decision to avoid a vacuum at the top of the Commission. But even though his centre-right allies are the biggest group in Parliament, they do not have an outright majority. The socialists say any vote before the Treaty of Lisbon is fully ratified would be legally ambiguous – and Ireland is not expected to hold its referendum on that until October.