Verhofstadt sees three scenarios for Barroso

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Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the European Liberals, has suggested three scenarios for the election of the next Commission president, one of which sees the European Parliament rejecting José Manuel Barroso’s candidacy, EURACTIV has learned.

The Liberal group in Parliament, headed by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, held a meeting yesterday (27 August) to discuss possible scenarios for the approval of the next Commission president. 

Under the first scenario, leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament would agree to hold a plenary vote on Barroso’s nomination on 16 September after approving his proposed “five-year plan” during separate hearings with the candidate on 8 and 9 September. 

Under a second scenario – described as “the worst case” by the Liberals – group leaders choose to reject Barroso’s candidacy straight away during the September hearings and call on the Swedish Presidency to convene an emergency EU summit in order to find another candidate. 

Under a third scenario, political groups remain unconvinced by Barroso’s programme and decide to postpone the Parliament’s vote until October, calling on the candidate to reconsider some of his commitments. 

That scenario, however, needs to take into account “the Irish factor” – the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October – and whether the outcome fits with the expectations of the Irish public, Verhofstadt told the meeting of the Liberal group. 

Barroso’s potential rejection would play badly in an Irish context, Verhofstadt reportedly said, because it would create an institutional crisis, a source at the meeting told EURACTIV. 

In any case, according to the former Belgian PM, the effect would be worse than if the vote was only postponed until October, the source put it.

Reaction from Verhofstadt’s spokesperson

Koert Debeuf, spokesperson of Guy Verhofstadt, called EURACTIV to say that the remarks attributed to Barroso have not been made at a group meeting, and there were no “Verhofstadt plans” or “Verhofstadt scenarios” on Barroso’s future. 


Barroso meets European Parliament 

President Barroso spoke briefly to the press yesterday (27 August) after receiving European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek in his office. No news emerged from the statements – Buzek indicated his intention to propose to the political groups that the Barroso vote be held on 16 September, while Barroso said that timing was not an issue for him, and he would be ready when the Parliament is ready. 

Sources in the European Commission indicated that the 27 commissioners were preparing to stay on as caretakers until the end of the year because of possible delays in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Senate (EURACTIV 24/08/09). 

According to a Parliament source, Czech President Václav Klaus wants to give the British Tories a chance to call a referendum and “kill” the Lisbon Treaty if they manage to seize power soon enough. 

But this procrastination cannot go on forever. “Klaus is running out of pretexts, of excuses,” the source said. In the perspective of Gordon Brown calling early elections by May 2010, Klaus would not have the resource of postponing ratification until May or June, the official said. 

José Manuel Barroso won unanimous backing from EU heads of state and government in June for a second five-year mandate at the head of the European Commission (EURACTIV 19/06/09). 

Their political support was formalised by written procedure on 9 July. Sweden, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, had insisted on having Barroso re-appointed as soon as possible, arguing that in a time of crisis, the Union needs a Commission president who is fully in power (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on the Swedish EU Presidency). 

However, the re-election of Barroso took a different course in the European Parliament. After consultations mediated by the Swedish EU Presidency had taken place, it emerged that the European Parliament would not hold a vote on Barroso's re-appointment at its July plenary (EURACTIV 02/07/09). 

MEPs from the Socialist and Liberal groups, backed by the Greens and leftists, said that any decision on major appointments should wait until after the September general election in Germany and the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, to be held on 2 October. 

Consequently, just before the summer recess, the leaders of the European Parliament's political groups agreed to delay until 10 September their decision on when to stage a vote for the top job (EURACTIV 17/07/09). On 25 August, Barroso, having worked over the recess, said he will be sending his programme for the next five years to the political groups in the European Parliament "in the course of next week" (EURACTIV 26/08/09). 

  • 8-9 Sept.: Barroso to discuss his programme with the party groups that wish to do so.
  • 16 Sept.: The European Parliament votes on Barroso's second term.
  • 2 Oct.: Second Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum.

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