European Commission President José Manuel Barroso came a step closer to securing a second term in office after being informally endorsed by conservative EU government leaders at a meeting prior to the EU summit yesterday (15 October), according to a German government official.
“Barroso stands for continuity and the cohesion of Europe. And this is what the EU needs in the coming years,” Peter Hintze, a secretary of state in the German finance ministry, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Having previously served as Portugal’s prime minister, Barroso took up his post at the Commission on 1 November 2004. His current mandate will expire at the end of October 2009.
Barroso was not the EU leaders’ first choice in 2004, but rather a compromise acceptable to both left and liberal leaders who had rejected the Conservative candidates such as Luxemburg’s Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker and Jan Peter Balkenende, his Dutch counterpart.
Yesterday’s decision in favour of Barroso came ahead of an EU summit at which leaders met to discuss measures to cope with what Barroso called the “worst financial crisis since the great depression” in the 1930s.
The Commission chief has already signalled his willingness to stay in office, but despite yesterday’s endorsement, a second mandate is far from certain as all 27 member states will have to have their say.
His chances are better than in 2004, however, since several big member states such as France, Germany and Italy are now being run by conservative leaders.
The only thing that seems certain is that the next Commission chief will again be a conservative, as every candidate needs to be confirmed by the European Parliament, where the centre-right EPP-ED group has a large majority which it is likely to retain after the 2009 European elections, according to current polls.
Furthermore, the selection of the Commission President usually comes as a package deal, also including the posts of the Parliament leaders and the Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security and Policy. And in the event that the Lisbon Treaty is adopted, there will also be a new position, that of permanent Council president (see our Links Dossier on Mr Europe).
The choice of the latter was set to be discussed at an EU summit in December, but is likely to be postponed due to the uncertain future of the treaty, which the Irish rejected in a referendum in June (EURACTIV 13/06/08).
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen yesterday said that he would come up with a roadmap for bringing the stalemate to an end by the next EU summit in December.