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EU chief stands by controversial choice

EU chief stands by controversial choice
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Will the new European Commission get the backing it needs? With a crucial vote next week, the incoming team’s future hangs in the balance. It follows a mini-rebellion by members of the European Parliament. Their support is required for the new nominees to be accepted. But Socialists say they will oppose the Commission unless Rocco Buttiglione, the controversial candidate for justice chief, is ditched. Incoming President Jose Manuel Barroso, however, says he is standing by his choice:

“When it comes to the individual commissioners, that is my responsibility. And, I, of course, am taking my responsibility,” he said. “Now the parliament will take its responsibility about the vote, next week.” Barroso is assured of the support of the conservatives, the largest group in parliament. But Socialist leader Martin Schulz is not happy with his response.

“I said to him: ‘you should change something to get a positive vote of my group.’ And the answer is ‘I change nothing.’ Then my group will not vote in favour of this commission,” he declared. Comments by Italian Buttiglione caused the crisis. He called homosexuality a sin and said marriage existed to enable women to have children and the protection of a man. He has since expressed regret over the problems that followed.

In a compromise move, the incoming Commission chief has said he and others would shadow Buttiglione on human rights and discrimination issues. But with the row still rumbling on, that solution seems wide of the mark.