Socialist MEPs toughen stance on Buttiglione

The 200-strong EP Socialist group insist on no less than a complete
change of portfolio for the controversial Italian
commissioner Buttiglione. Meanwhile Barroso remains
“optimistic” that a solution will be found.    

The EP Socialist group has upped the ante in the battle over the
controversial commissioner designate Rocco Buttiglione. The PES
leader Martin Schulz found himself faced with an angry group less
willing to go for a compromise as he had
signalled earlier this week after meeting Commission President
Barroso. 

The group thus firmly ruled out previously suggested
solutions such as taking away part of Buttiglione’s
protfolio: “We expect and demand a complete change in
portfolio. We will not accept any cosmetic solution or tinkering at
the edges of his responsibilities,” said Schulz on 20 October.

Prior to the crucial meeting on 21 October between all EP group
leaders and Barroso, the Commission president declared himself
“optimistic”. Meanwhile press reports, citing Barroso insiders,
indicated that the president knows that “status quo is not an
option”. 

Graham Watson, leader of the 88-strong liberal group, is
also calling for Buttiglione to be moved to another
portfolio. A swap with the French Commissioner designate for
Transport, Jacques Barrot, has been proposed as a way out.

While Buttiglione only has full backing from the conservative
PPE group, speculation now centres around the question
of just how far the other political groups will go. The votes
of the Liberal group are crucial, and it has been
suggested that the presence of eight liberal commissioners in
the Barroso team will make them pull back from a full-scale
confrontation that could lead to the dismissal of the Barroso
team.

The EP will have a final vote on the new Commission on
27 October in Strasbourg.    

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