After his first 100 days in the job, Jose Manuel Barroso’s colleagues and critics say the president of the European Commission is still in need of a political compass and a coherent message.
The liberal Portuguese former prime minister’s efforts to dynamise a Commission given a rough start by the European Parliament and give the European Union clearer leadership face resistance on several fronts. The head of the European Studies Institute at Brussels Free University, Paul Magnette, gives his assessment. “At the moment, Barroso has a real problem with the left in parliament. There’s really a partisan division there. He was mostly put in by the centre-right countries, mostly supported by the centre-right in parliament, his legislative programme only has a majority in the centre-right… He has to show now that he can also win the European socialists’ support, and they say they will not give him that easily.” Barroso’s economic reform agenda is a balancing act which must satisfy Europe’s legislators and its member states. German Social Democrat MEP Jo Leinen considers the prospects for finding common ground: “We expect more and we hope that on the big debate we have now for the Lisbon strategy in the Spring Summit, some legislation on the table like the Directive on services, that we can find a balance.” Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom, a Socialist, says the EU executive should not be shy of its conservative leanings — that this reflects political reality in Europe. Barroso has the time, with his team, to set a productive course for Europe, with more than 1,700 days left in his mandate.