Saturday 5 September 2009

Barroso's EU2020

After being critised and pressed to come up with a clear programme for a second Commission term, Barroso has proudly presented his "Political guidelines for the next Commission". Compared to his 2-page letter to the Council when seeking re-nomination, this document stands at 41 pages. Possibly stung by the charge that Barroso had no vision for the next 5 years, he claim to have not only that, but a vision for the next 10 years - insisting that there needs to be a clear direction for Europe up to 2020.

Sadly, there's not much content in Barroso's EU2020 plan - Barroso claims that he can't go into too much detail until he knows what the shape of his Commission would be. This strikes me as a cop-out: Barroso has already been nominated, and now it's up to the Parliament to elect or reject him. Though the member states have the most control over the shape of the Commission he would present to the Parliament, the post of Commission President has become, well, more presidential - Barroso will have a decisive say in setting Commission policy.

Barroso may be holding back for three reasons: 1. Parliament won't like what he has to say; naturally the PASD and Greens aren't as free market as he is, but the EPP have also shifted towards favouring greater financial regulation, whereas Barroso would come from the economic right of the EPP. 2. Caution - the EP still might decide to put his vote off, and a vague programme wouldn't offend national governments in case he has to depend on their continued goodwill if there's another scramble for the top jobs. 3. He doesn't really have much or any vision at all.

So what did he say? Julien Frisch has a sharp and very critical article here, which also gives a list of quotes. (He's also got a round up of blogging opinion on Barroso's EU2020 here). On page 7 (the PDF page 7) of the "Political guidelines" there's a handy buzzword diagram that sums up the vague positivity he's aiming at, and he pretty much sticks to it throughout.

It reads like a name-dropping checklist:
Saying you're passionate about Europe and have a vision? Check.
Emphasise the value of the single market? Check.
Furthering the single market? Check.
Green economy and climate change? Check. (Reference to green technology + jobs = :-) ).
Concern over unemployment? Check.
Immigration and security? Check. (He wants a "true common immigration policy", though he stops short of telling us anything about it whatsoever).
Praising the role of Parliament? Check, check and check again. Oh, and check, just to be safe.

While there is very little content (the closest he comes is talking about a marine observation and data network, and ambitions to free up the broadband market [and also financial services markets]), Barroso made much of a "special partnership" between the Commission and the Parliament; mentioning the prospect of more meetings with the EP's Conference of Presidents and having a kind of Commission President's Questions on a regular basis.

The question of when the EP will vote on Barroso's second term still hasn't been settled - some want to postpone it until after the Lisbon Referendum vote in Ireland on October 2nd, though the EPP are naturally pushing for the sooner September 16th. Barroso will meet with the leaderships of the various political groups over the next few days. The far-left GUE-NGL will definitely oppose him, while the right-wing ECR, despite styling itself as the "official opposition", will back Barroso (see EurActiv for the detailed positions). Given that Barroso is more to the economic right than the Parliament, I (still) think that the ECR will end up being one of the most pro-Commission/establishment groups in Parliament.

On the bright side, Barroso managed to throw in a few phrases about global governance and new orders, so it should keep conspiracy theorists entertained, if no-one else.


  1. As I've already noted on Juien Frisch's blog, your proposition #3 is the reality. He doesn't yet know what the leading Council members want. When that becomes clearer, he'll suddenly have a "programme".

    Just what is wrong with EMP's that they can't see through this man: is he so transparently empty?

  2. I think one of the main issues is that if you dig a little deeper into this programme, you realise that there is hardly ANY new idea or proposal. 90% of it is a copy-pasted list of either proposals that have already been made, or programmes that already exist. This lack of vision is really quite worrying.

  3. @ french derek

    It's not quite that bad yet (luckly Barroso can't abolish the Commission as an institution!), but I agree. A lot of the blame has to lie with the S&D group, though.

    @ Eurosocialist

    And at least 9 of the remaining 10% is padding.