Barroso: the candidate of all European parties

, by Joan Marc Simon

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Barroso: the candidate of all European parties

This is as confusing as it is absurd. In yesterday’s meeting [1] the EPP leaders back Barroso for a second term as President of the European Commission but still no party is behind Barroso’s ambition to renew his mandate as president of the European Commission.

One could expect that if the leaders of a party back a candidate of the same party and nobody in the party opposes, this candidate would become THE candidate of THE party. Not in European politics.

Same as EPP, the European Socialist Party has no official candidate for president of the European Commission. When Rasmussen, PSE President, was asked about the PSE candidate in the presentation of the PSE manifesto, he said that they hadn’t decided on a candidate “yet”. At the same time socialist prime ministers such as Zapatero, Socrates or Brown already openly expressed their support for Barroso. I guess it is easy to back a candidate when the contest is a false one...

Barroso, the President of what is to be the executive body of the EU, is backed by individuals. These individuals are not “normal” individuals; they are Heads of State and Heads of Governments. However, what does it say about the future President of the European Commission and the Commission as a whole?

Firstly, that the “European interest” can’t be defended by a body whose president is held hostage by Heads of State and Governments. The role of defending the interests of the member-states was the role of the president of the European Council but it seems like the Commission is dangerously shifting towards the intergovernmentalist option.

Secondly, and as a consequence, no expectations about leadership or initiative should be put on a body elected without a political program and that is held hostage of the interest of the member-states.

Leadership is crucial in times of crisis and without a strong European Commission taking the initiative to regulate the financial markets, in raising resources for a economic relaunch, in investing in the infrastructure necessary to launch a new green economy the EU is doomed to fail to its citizens.

Leadership comes from personality but also from legitimacy and recognition. Why should the Europeans, even those who will vote in the European Parliament elections, feel that Barroso is representing them? They will vote for a program that can’t be implemented because Barroso’s program is improvised in the heads of state meetings and not subjected to public scrutiny.

Why should the Europeans feel that Barroso is representing them?

If the EPP happens to have the same political program as Barroso -which would make sense if he belongs to the party the leaders of which support him- why isn’t Barroso the candidate of the EPP? Is the EPP scared that if they declare Barroso as their candidate the socialists might be forced to declare that Barroso is NOT their candidate?

By Barroso not being the candidate of any party... should we interpret that he is the “de-facto” candidate of all parties?

If so, we certainly live in a strange stage of European democracy.

Image: José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commissione; source:


[1The article was written on Friday, March 20th, 2009.

Your comments

  • On 4 April 2009 at 22:24, by Dane Sudden Replying to: Barroso: the candidate of all European parties

    Well, for me it seems he is clearly running. Look, no mistake in that. I agree with the author, European politics is a bad copy of the national one. Anyway, if you compare the debate and events to 2004 European elections, I think we all agree that thing are approving. The fact is that center-right has a candidate de facto, even if not openly declared for tactical reasons.

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