Cohn-Bendit suggests ‘more suitable’ job for Barroso

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Green group co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is opposed to the re-election of José Manuel Barroso as Commission president, said on Monday that the right job for the Portuguese would be permanent president of the European Council, a position that would be created if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.

Cohn-Bendit, who was elected as head of the ‘Europe Ecologie’ list in France, said that such a solution would be a “perfect compromise” and a “face-saving” move for both the European Parliament and the EU heads of state and government. 

The Parliament has shown its strength by postponing until autumn the vote on the re-appointment of Barroso at the Commission’s helm (EURACTIV 14/07/09). 

Those supporting the Portuguese are concerned that the delay could create competition for his post, if and when two other top positions are created following the Lisbon Treaty’s ratification: permanent president of the European Council and EU foreign policy chief. 

Both the Socialists and the centre-right EPP group recently admitted that new candidates could emerge by September for the Commission job. 

In a recent meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Cohn-Bendit said Barroso was “not the right man in the right place in times of crises”. Cohn-Bendit claims that Barroso is not a strong leader capable of steering the commissioners. 

“Each time there is a conflict, he pretends he doesn’t see, and waits until it calms down,” he was quoted as saying. 

Speaking to Euronews yesterday, Cohn-Bendit said he saw Joschka Fischer, the former German Green foreign minister, and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Danish president of the Party of European Socialists (PES), as better candidates. He also mentioned the new leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt. 

Cohn-Bendit also added the names of former Irish UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, former British EU commissioner Chris Patten and former Italian commissioner Mario Monti. 

José Manuel Barroso won unanimous backing from EU heads of state and government at their 18-19 June summit for a second five-year mandate at the European Commission's helm (EURACTIV 19/06/09). 

However, EU leaders did not formalise their decision, awaiting further "exploratory discussions" with group leaders in the European Parliament. According to the EU treaties, the Commission candidate needs to be approved by simple majority vote in the assembly before he or she can start composing the new college of commissioners. 

But it later emerged that most political groups in the European Parliament were hostile to holding a vote on Barroso's re-appointment during the assembly's July plenary session, arguing that EU leaders first needed to formalise Barroso's appointment (EURACTIV 02/07/09). 

On 9 July, EU heads of state and government adopted by written procedure a decision to officially back Barroso (EURACTIV 09/07/09). But on 10 July the conference of presidents of the European Parliament decided not to schedule the confirmation vote in July, to give themselves enough time to assess Barroso's candidacy more thoroughly. 

In his prolonged role as candidate, political group leaders requested Barroso to publish his programme for the next five years and discuss it with MEPs at the Parliament plenary. The vote, held by secret ballot, will only take place afterwards. 

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