‘Imperial’ Barroso urged to have ‘vision’ for second mandate

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As José Manuel Barroso begins his second term as European Commission president, he should keep in mind the Portuguese 'Carnation Revolution', Tom Spencer, executive director of the European Centre for Public Affairs, told EURACTIV in an interview.

An "imperial" Barroso II is emerging in a strong position to lead the EU executive, but he lacks the "heroism" or visionary perspective of a predecessor like Jacques Delors, said Spencer, a former Conservative MEP.

"This generation's leadership, whether in politics, public affairs or business, is less heroic than the previous generation. But they face a more difficult global environment, where heroism, bravery and creativity are absolutely needed given the global power shift," said Spencer.

"I would remind him how far we have come, and I would say to him: Barroso II is the first president of a Commission that operates under a mature, completed European Union structure […] I want him to position himself historically in the next five years, and look externally," the public affairs pundit said.

Both Barroso and Spencer physically participated in the 'Carnation Revolution', during which time Barroso was a young Maoist activist and Spencer took part in political events in Portugal, organised by European conservative youth movements.

At the time, it appeared that while getting rid of decades of dictatorship, Portugal was tilting towards communist countries. Nevertheless, Portugal developed as a democratic society, and the same path was followed, fifteen years later, by the East European former communist countries.

"Now Barroso needs to have that historical sense, but he also needs to have that global sense, which actually the Portuguese have. The Portuguese are encoded with Henry the Navigator, the Lusiads […] So my advice would be: look how far we have come, have a sense of history, have a sense of geography, and then be completely pragmatic inside that."

Spencer said Barroso had spent the last two years of his first mandate preparing for competition with the first permanent Council president. However, with the post being taken by former Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, Spencer said he expected Barroso to find a "comfortable" modus vivendi with him, as the two are "quite similar people in some ways".

Barroso's relations with the European Parliament could prove to be more difficult, Spencer said, recalling that Delors had never faced that kind of challenge. He said the increased powers and assertiveness of Parliament was "the key shift in the balance of powers in the last nine months".

Tom Spencer was speaking to EURACTIV's Georgi Gotev and Andrew Williams. 

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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