European leaders gave their backing on Thursday to Jose Manuel Barroso for a second term at the head of the EU Commission. Barroso supporters say he represents continuity at a time when the EU is weathering financial storms.
REUTERS - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso won the unanimous backing of European Union leaders on Thursday to seek a second five-year term, EU diplomats said.
The former Portuguese prime minister, 53, still requires the the approval of the European Parliament but his centre-right allies are the biggest force in the assembly and he is expected to win enough votes to be reappointed.
A record-low turnout in an election to the parliament this month showed widespread discontent with the EU's handling of the global economic crisis under Barroso, but he represents continuity in fighting the crisis. "It's a done deal," one diplomat said after Barroso presented his plans at an EU summit in Brussels.
"The heads of government found his programme was in line with their expectations," another diplomat said.
Supporters say he guarantees continuity in difficult times but critics say the EU responded slowly to the global economic crisis and succumbed to pressure from EU capitals to relax state aid and budget rules.
"We need leadership and we need clear decisions and I'm hopeful that we will get this tonight," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said before the decision.
The leaders gave Barroso their political support but withheld the legally-binding endorsement he was seeking.
This was partly because of legal concerns and a desire not to upset the assembly by presenting it with a fait accompli. But it also reflected the lack of alternatives and enthusiasm over a candidate regarded by critics as wanting ideas and inspiration.
The Commission has far-reaching regulatory powers and proposes much of the EU's legislation. The president decides its policy priorities and chooses the other Commission members.
Barroso made clear in a letter before the summit that his programme would include leading Europe out of economic crisis, rebuilding the EU's financial and supervisory system, protecting jobs, combating climate change and helping secure Irish voters' approval of the Lisbon treaty streamlining EU decision making.
"We are now living in a very serious economic and financial crisis, not just in Europe but in the world. The world cannot wait for Europe ... Our citizens want to see action," he told reporters before the summit started.
Diplomats said Sweden and the Czech Republic, the current and next holders of the EU presidency, would now consult the European Parliament on Barroso's candidacy.
If they are confident he can secure a majority, EU leaders will then give him full endorsement allowing the assembly to vote on him in mid-July, they said.
Barroso could still face another vote of approval in the assembly if the EU in the next few months completes ratification of a treaty setting out new rules for appointing the president and his team in the European Commission.
Date created : 2009-06-19