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Barroso wins second term as EU Commission chief

Video by Oliver FARRY

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-17

The European Parliament has voted to give Jose Manuel Barroso a second five-year mandate as European Commission president with an absolute majority, despite criticism of his handling of the global financial crisis.

Jose Manuel Barroso has been given a second mandate as European Commission president, ending months of heated political debate among EU parliamentarians.


The former Portuguese premier was the only candidate in the running for the post, a fact that rankled with many parties in the assembly because of his perceived poor handling of the economic crisis and his right-wing background.


Nevertheless, Barroso was able to clinch 382 votes of the total 736 deputies to win a fresh mandate with a clear majority.


Support from Barroso's fellow conservatives had never been in question.


Political analyst Yves Bertoncini, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris, said Barroso was the logical choice for the largely right-wing EU member states, the majority of whom gave him their backing.


"Some 20 of the 27 member states are conservative," he told FRANCE 24. "And being from the right-wing European People's Party he was the natural choice.


"The European People's Party is the largest party in the EU Parliament. An alternative candidate could have been identified but that candidate would almost certainly have come from the same political family."


Barroso said his commission would use all means in the new Lisbon reform treaty - which could enter into force next year if approved by an Irish referendum - "to strengthen the convergence of objectives and the coherence of the effects of economic policy, particularly in the euro area."

The Lisbon treaty would streamline decision-making in the 27-nation European Union, but in June 2008 it was rejected by a 53.4 percent vote in Ireland - the only EU member state where it must be put to a referendum.


"The Chameleon"


Although Barroso was widely opposed by left wing EU parliamentarians, he had appealed openly for their support by emphasising a commitment to social policy, including equal pay for women.


He also promised to install a commissioner for civil liberties and minority rights.


"The question is whether he will be able to act on the promises he made," Bertoncini told FRANCE 24, adding that Barroso "deserves the nickname 'The Chameleon'" for his ability to appear to support more than one side.


Socialists had widely condemned his candidature, saying he would be a lackey for the EU member governments and would serve their interests directly.


The Greens were the biggest opposition group, refusing to partake in the vote despite not putting forward their own candidate.

"I just can't believe it," Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit told the parliament, referring to the idea that some colleagues might think Barroso would stand up to the EU's leaders.

Cohn-Bendit told FRANCE 24 in an interview after the vote: “I think Barroso is the wrong person for the job. I think he is weak. (…) He did not see the financial crisis coming, and now he says that everything has changed. Nothing has changed.”

Bemoaning the EU parliament’s lack of leeway in the process, the Green MEP said: “he was the Commission’s choice. The Parliament does not choose candidates for the presidency of the Commission. The only way we could have got rid of Barroso as a candidate was to have not voted for him today.”
The European Commission is the EU's executive arm and 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 in 2010.

Date created : 2009-09-16