German Social Democrats pave way for Barroso II

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European Commission President José Manuel Barroso seems well-placed to win a second term after the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, Franz Müntefering, said yesterday (27 May) that there was little point in the European Socialists naming their own alternative candidate in an attempt to halt the incumbent’s re-appointment.

Müntefering’s comments came as a boost to the former Portuguese prime minister’s hopes of retaining his post when his five-year mandate expires later this year. 

Müntefering told reporters that Barroso, backed by his party, the European People’s Party, had done a competent job as head of the EU executive and had the support of some centre-left governments in Europe, including his native Portugal, neighbouring Spain and the UK. 

Asked if Europe’s centre-left would put up a challenge, he replied: “What would the point of that be?” “It would be naive to do that. There are 27 EU countries and 21 of those are led by conservative governments. And at least two others, Portugal and Spain, are for Barroso. Do you think the other four should put up a challenge?” he said. 

But Müntefering, chairman of the SPD which shares power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said his party would like a place in the next Commission for German Martin Schulz, head of the Socialist group in the European Parliament. 

Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD have wrangled over which party will nominate a candidate to be Germany’s member of the Commission – which initiates EU legislation and ensures rules are enforced – when the SPD’s Günter Verheugen leaves. 

“There’s been a close cooperation so far [with Barroso] and I don’t know who would be able to stop him if he is nominated again by the conservatives,” Müntefering told the Foreign Press Association in Berlin. 

“He’s a confident man, a politician with a lot of experience. We understand our Portuguese friends support him and Spain is also close. We assume that, along with the fact there are so many conservative governments in Europe, this means there is no possibility for another majority,” he added. 

Barroso was appointed in 2004 after a tough compromise as Britain and its allies blocked the Franco-German candidate, then-Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. 

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

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