Socialists spell out conditions for Barroso

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Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, has formulated 11 demands for the next president of the European Commission as horse-trading continues over the re-appointment of José Manuel Barroso this autumn.

In an open letter to the candidate for the Commission’s top job, Schulz unveiled 11 “key issues” which he said “correspond to the urgent expectations of our citizens towards the European Union”. 

These appear to be largely inspired by the Socialists’ own ‘manifesto’ for the European elections (EURACTIV 11/02/09) and were published yesterday (13 July) in a letter welcoming the newly-elected MEPs to their first parliamentary session in Strasbourg. 

The Socialists ask Barroso, the centre-right candidate for a second term at the Commission’s helm, to enter “immediately” into a “serious and intensive dialogue” with their group. 

However, it does not appear that further contact will take place before the autumn, when the Parliament is expected to hold a vote of approval on Barroso’s candidacy. 

Tony Robinson, spokesperson for the Socialists and Democrats group, told EURACTIV that contact with Barroso was not expected in the coming weeks. “This week is a very busy one with election of offices in Parliament, and anyway, the Socialist group is not aware of Barroso coming to Strasbourg,” he said. 

“Whoever comes to speak has to speak to our group, exactly in the same way that candidates for the Parliament presidency are speaking to our group at the moment,” Robinson said. 

No further group meetings are planned until the last week of August. 

“There is no rush. We are giving the candidate time to assimilate the 11 points and their implications,” Robinson said, adding: “We are yet to hear a programme from the candidate.” 

Among the Socialists’ priorities are a new Recovery Plan for Europe, aimed at creating and safeguarding employment, a European Employment Pact, again aimed at creating new and better jobs and fighting mass unemployment, a Social Progress Pact to tackle the full social consequences of the crisis and preventing a rise in poverty, inequality and exclusion. 

Robinson stressed that the 11 points are intended not only for Barroso but for any candidate. 

The former Portuguese prime minister is the only candidate for the position, and a recent ‘technical agreement’ between the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists to share the Parliament presidency in the next five years suggests they are ready to support the current Commission president. 

But the Socialists insist they will only give their support to a candidate who takes stock of their priorities. 

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group, adopted a similar stance recently, suggesting that Barroso would need get serious about his programme during the Parliament’s summer recess (EURACTIV 09/07/09). 

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's plenary. The vote, held by secret ballot, will only take place afterwards. 

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