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Barroso, centrist reformer and chameleon

brussels bureau

Barroso, centrist reformer and chameleon


José Manuel Barroso, in his first five years in office as President of the European Commission, showed his power of political adaptability so often he was nicknamed ‘the Chameleon’.

It was the head of the European Parliament’s Socialist group, Martin Schulz, who said when Barroso talks to the socialists he is a socialist, a liberal when he talks to the liberals and an ecologist when he talks to the greens.

He was the only candidate for the job this time around; no challenger on the left rose to meet him.
And yet the man criticised for promising less regulation and then delivering more lobbied hard.

Barroso’s slalom began as a Maoist Proletariat Party follower in the 1970s and his native Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. He jagged to the right ten years later when he joined the conservative Social Democrats. A few twists later, he ended up leading Portugal as prime minister.

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At a time of colossal European opposition to war against Iraq, Barroso welcomed fellow leaders Bush and Blair for a pre-invasion summit on the Azores. This won him influential British support against other candidates when his name came up to lead the Commission the following year.

Less known for strong convictions than a confirmed knack for consensus-building, at 53, Barroso sets out on a new five-year course as a self-declared centrist reformer.

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