This was no ordinary State of the Union address. President Barroso stood in front of MEPs in the European Parliament knowing the challenge facing Europe was not only the biggest of his tenure so far but also, as he put, the biggest in the EU’s history. Tension in Strasbourg over how the debt crisis will pan out remains high.
Guy Verhofstadt, head of the parliament’s Liberal group (ALDE) said: “Mr Junker, Mr van Rompuy, Mr Rehn, Mr Barroso, the president of the European Central Bank… We have at least five people who are representing Europe! We need one! And that can only be a senior Commissioner that you have to appoint. Make him ‘European Minister of Finance’ and all this discussion on who is representing the euro is over!”
Such frustration, over the EU’s disjointed approach in battling the crisis, is not unique. Many MEPs argue what is needed is not less but more Europe.
‘‘We must not turn inward: Europe is the solution not the problem. It’s imperative states come together to find a solution. At least the 17 in the euro zone. What I also think, is that right now we’re running behind the banks and rating agencies. We need to take political control of what is currently happening,’‘ Joseph Daul, head of the parliament’s Conservative group said.
Many leaders freely admit it is easier to talk about getting control of Europe’s current economic crisis than it is to actually do it. But what about Barroso’s role?
“He showed that he is prepared to fill the vacuum which is existing in the European Union, there’s a lack of leadership. He alone will for sure not manage it therefore he needs the backing of the parliament. We are prepared,” Socialist group leader Martin Schulz said.
Like Barroso, many in Strasbourg have called for eurobonds as a way of tackling the crisis. But convincing countries, notably Germany which is vehemently opposed, will be no mean feet.
As Lothar Bisky, head of the parliament’s United Left group put it: ‘‘I think the German government has a clear stance towards the European Union. That is, all the money should be for Germany. Berlin always wants to have the last word. They are against eurobonds because those bonds would be out of their control.”