The European parliament reinstated Jose Manuel Barroso as European Commission president for another five years on Wednesday, despite criticism of his handling of the global financial crisis.
AFP - After months of wrangling and political muscle-flexing, the European parliament is set Wednesday to return Jose Manuel Barroso to the EU's most high-profile post: European Commission president.
Since they were elected in June, many parties in the new assembly have variously railed against the former Portuguese premier, particularly over his handling of the economic crisis, but no other candidate has emerged.
And as Barroso put the finishing touches to his campaign in Strasbourg Tuesday, it appeared that he had clinched the support of around 400 of the 736 deputies, more than enough to win a new five-year mandate.
Support from the 53-year old politician's conservative brethren was never in question, but doubts had emerged as to whether the Socialist bloc, the second largest in the parliament could be persuaded to back him.
The Greens had most vehemently opposed him as a lackey of the leaders of the 27 European Union member states, but even they failed to stand up another candidate.
Indeed he was the only publicly-declared contender for the top job.
But "of those who stand a credible chance of winning" support from the parliament, said Centre for European Reform expert Charles Grant, "Barroso is the most committed to the kind of openness that Europe needs."
The European Commission is the EU's executive arm. Based in Brussels, it is responsible for drawing up legislation that impacts on the lives of about half a billion Europeans, as well as enforcing the rules already in place.
Its president -- who like the commissioners is appointed rather than elected -- has significant leverage to influence legislative priorities. The commission will have a budget of 138 billion euros (200 billion dollars) in 2010.
On September 3 in a pitch to remain in Brussels, Barroso vowed to work to build an "ambitious Europe" with "people at the heart of the policy agenda".
"Europe is facing stark choices in today's interdependent world. Either we work together to rise to the challenges. Or we condemn ourselves to irrelevence," he said.
"I will redouble my efforts to make an ambitious Europe happen," he said.
But while he outlined goals that few would argue with, flattering all parties, it remains unclear exactly how the multilingual head of one of the EU's three main institutions would achieve that.
To please Liberals in the assembly, Barroso said he would create the post of an EU commissioner for basic rights. The Socialists saw a man focused on working hours and worker mobility and appear divided.
Barroso tried to mollify the Greens with his approach to global warming.
While his fate had appeared in some doubt, it could become clear as soon as Tuesday night, after the Liberals and Socialists reach their final verdicts on his future.
Barroso needs only a simple majority to secure his job, but it appears he could even secure enough votes to ensure his post cannot be questioned in future if the new Lisbon reform treaty enters force, possibly next year.
Date created : 2009-09-16