Barroso on the spot before European Council nomination

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“[European Commission President José Manuel] Barroso will have to tread carefully in selecting candidates for a new college,” writes Michael Berendt, a former European Commission official and current public affairs advisor, in a June post on Blogactiv.

“People have been grumbling over the last year or so that Barroso’s presidency of the European Commission has been too much influenced by hope of a second term […] I’m not convinced of the evidence for that, but the Commission president has certainly been put on the spot now,” writes Berendt.

“[French] President [Nicolas] Sarkozy has threatened that [the] decision [taken at 18-19 June European Council will be] conditional on the candidate’s good behaviour,” he explains. “The French president [said] that the appointment might need further confirmation after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty”. Indeed, ratification by MEPs would require a majority of members and not just a simple majority.

“When Sarkozy and [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel gave their conditional approval to Barroso on 11 June, they were speaking from a position of strength following their strong showing in the European Parliament elections,” he says: a “dramatic contrast [with] British Prime Minister Gordon Brown,” who “could hardly be weaker and whose party suffered a bitter defeat in the polls”.

Sarkozy wants “tighter regulation of financial markets […] with stricter regulation, for instance of hedge funds, derivatives markets and rating agencies. He wants policies which at least purport to show that the era of Anglo-Saxon dominance of these markets, which many perceive as the root cause of the recession, has been weakened for good,” he says.

Moreover, Sarkozy is concerned about portfolios of the new commissioners. “The internal market job, including financial services, is a key one. Competition policy is another,” he explains. But “neither Charlie McCreevy nor Neelie Kroes are favourites of Sarkozy,” he writes.

“Without the presence of the Conservatives [in the European People’s Party (EPP) group], their views [on light-touch regulation] may well prevail, carrying the group with them,” Berendt says. 

“It would certainly be a strange irony if the defection of the Conservatives from the EPP played directly into the hands of the French president!,” he concludes. 

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