Thursday 18 June 2009

The Barroso Agenda

After calls from both the EP and from France and Germany for Barroso to give details on his "ambitious agenda" for a second term, Barroso has finally attempted to outline his vision for the next 5 years in a letter to the heads of state and government (PDF). (Via EurActiv).

The letter doesn't detail any policy (his policy preferences were probably in the letters he sent to each government individually, if at all), but it stresses his believe in a responsible and effective internal market, environmental protection and the importance of a low carbon economy, and in the European ideal of a strong Europe and respect for national competences. The focus on generalities is to limit the objections that could be raised in the European Council summit today against nominating him for a second term - Barroso is anxious to prevent Sarkozy from ensuring that Barroso only get the political support of the Council. If Sarkozy gets his way, and the Lisbon Treaty passes, the Commission Presidency could become part of a package deal of EU posts, and Barroso's political backing could dry up pretty quickly.

It's also noticeable that the letter is addressed to the European Council - I'm not aware of any similar letter to the group leaders in the European Parliament. This is a sensible tactic from Barroso's point of view, because if he wins the Council's support, it will be much harder for the EP to oppose him, especially without an alternative candidate. Any doubts the EPP might have about his candidature will be suppressed by his letter and Council support. At the same time, the EP - and certainly his critics - would demand more detailed proposals, which could damage his standing with some governments and slow down his endorsement by the Council. Still, it's a shame that the European Parliament has been neglected by Barroso.

In other news, ELDR now backs Barroso. (Link. Via Julien Frisch). The Anti-Barroso coalition didn't have enough votes to make Guy Verhofstadt a viable candidate, but this announcement makes Barroso's second term a near certainty, unless he falls out of favour with the Council in the next few months. The EP needs to make the most of its opportunity to grill Barroso before it votes on a second term.

So, given that Barroso's re-election/appointment is so likely, should the EP just bow to the inevitable? Tony Barbar at the FT seems to think so, on the basis that the left lost, so they can't complain. However, Julien Frisch has written a great counter argument on his blog. There needs to be more political competition and debate over the post, and an opposition-government divide in the EP would force more scrutiny of the Commission and help open the Brussels political world up a (small) bit more to the public.

There is also the question of the EP standing up for itself in the EU system. The Greens are suggesting that an early Barroso appointment could be invalidated by the EP's own procedural rules. The European Parliament needs to make its voice heard and to ensure that it is respected as an institution within the EU system. If it can't stand up for itself, and force the Council and Commission to listen to its views, then why should it expect people to vote for it?

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