Leaders from the 27 European Union members have been arriving in Brussels for a summit.
They’re going to hear Jose Manuel Barroso set out his stall for another five years in office as President of the European Commission. One observer has described it as a kind of “job interview over dinner” this evening. There is widespread consensus that he will win their backing – partly because no-one else is standing against him – but any appointment must be passed by the European Parliament. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticised Barroso for reacting too slowly to the financial crisis, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was slow to give him her backing too. The summit also marks the end of the Czech republic’s tenure at the rotating EU presidency, the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt takes over at the end of the month. Ireland’s Prime Minister Brian Cowen is central to one of the main themes of the summit. Leaders are expected to fix specific guarantees Ireland is demanding before putting the Lisbon Treaty to the Irish people for a second time. The economic crisis is still dominating events, and though all countries have already agreed the need for new EU regulations, Britain remains unhappy that decisions taken in Brussels could restrict the UK’s capability to influence its own financial sector – something that is a mainstay of Britain’s economy.