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Can Barroso be Stopped?

by nanne Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 09:53:04 AM EST

The European People's Party just reaffirmed their support for José Manuel Barroso as Commission President. He's not going to be on the ballot in any country. But it is clear that if you vote for the CDU in Germany, or the UMP in France in the European Parliament elections, you also vote for Barroso as Commission President. From the press release:

"If the EPP wins the elections to the European Parliament in June, and we are confident that we will win, the President of the European Commission should continue to belong to the EPP political family. Jose Manuel Barroso has a broad appeal in all the main political families and is by far the best candidate for this position taking into account his successful term as Commission President and his wide political experience at the national level", stated the President of the EPP, Wilfried Martens.

(via Joan Marc Simon)

There are attempts to stop Barroso. Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the greens is trying to form an initiative called Stop Barroso, as afew wrote in the STOP B... piece. But the biggest obstacle to stopping Barroso isn't the European People's Party. It's the Party of the European Socialists.

François Hollande has a piece in the French Slate in which he supports the initiative of Cohn-Bendit. He also sees the problem with the PES, and notes 'with consternation' that Gordon Brown has rallied to the support of Barroso.

Let's review that, shortly, because we seemed to have missed it. Gordon Brown supports Barroso, as reported by the AFP:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown voiced support Monday for Jose Manuel Barroso to serve a second term as president of the European Commission. "We will support him not only as the current president of the European Commission but for election as the next president of the European Commission," Brown said after talks with Barroso in London.

Now, Gordon Brown supporting Barroso, that's no big surpise. Barroso was the UK candidate the last time around, because of his support for the war in Iraq. And I hear there's room for a UK party in the EPP-ED group, where nuLabour may fit in better after all.

But the sad truth is that Brown's step can hardly be controversial within the PES, as a good deal of the party has already been supporting Barroso. The failure of the PES to nominate a candidate itself is closely related to the support for Barroso by the prime ministers of Portugal and Spain. Socrates and Zapatero. Who are doing so for Iberian reasons.

As for the outcome European elections, it will look like this: barring an earth-shattering defeat of the EPP, Barroso will continue to be Commission President. The Presidency of the European Parliament will continue to be divided between the PES and the EPP, which each serving half of the term. The PES will get a pledge that it will recieve a fair number of Commissioners, there will also be a few ELDR/ALDE (liberals) Commissioners. Probably no greens.

But is this that bad? The relations between the parties in the European Parliament obviously matters for a lot of the legislation that we see come out of Europe, so there is more at stake. Still, by failing to run a candidate the PES has effectively ruled out that people also have something of a say over a part of the executive. And Barroso hasn't been a very inspiring or effective Commission President, aside of which, a campaign against him and for a PES candidate would have been good for interest in teh elections and could have had a positive impact on the outcome for the left.

When I asked PES spokesperson Julian Scola about this in the European Parliament a few months ago, he stated that the EPP would hardly put up posters of Barroso in the English countryside. That is fair enough, even now that there is no longer an English party in the EPP-ED group, but it also shows where we are. The European Parliament elections are largely national elections with national campaigns. And the PES has missed a major chance to start to change that.

As you can see I've been given the keys to post on the front page.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 09:57:16 AM EST
Good thing too! Congrats on your first front-page post!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 10:31:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't been keeping up with this issue.

Question - you would say that Barroso has "Iberian support" for reasons of "regional pride"? Or are you referring to something else?

It strikes me that another opportunity lost by the PES not presenting a candidate was the opportunity to affect the election, even if that candidate did not win, because candidates get to raise issues.

  1. Asking some more questions about the role itself, the powers we're going to see invested in Barroso.

  2. As a part of the debate an actually left-leaning candidate could widen the Overton window. Barroso is beholden to the philosophies that brought us the financial crisis. Surely there was an opportunity there.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 10:14:55 AM EST
On Iberian reasons, having someone from your country or peninsula as Commission President doesn't hurt your national interests, either.

I think Barroso has only tried to be a radical neoliberal in the first two years of the Commission. After that he's moved to mainstream third way neoliberalism because he wanted to get some things passed, too, and he also wanted to be re-elected. He could move further to the left as the centre shifts further. The problem is that he's been an ineffective leader and that the PES has indeed missed an opportunity to move the centre.

On Barroso's effectiveness, I have an old post on blogger called 'Fonctionnaires'. I think that since then, Barroso's Commission has improved a bit but has not shown a clear sense of direction. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen of the PES or Jean-Claude Juncker for the EPP would both be better Commission Presidents. Balkenende, who has also been mentioned on the EPP side, would be much the same as Barroso, in terms of his leadership abilities.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 11:39:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good diary, Nanne, on the political dynamics - well inertia mostly - that will largely lead to a second Barroso term.  It is difficult to see how a candidate with EPP and significant PES support (in Britain and Iberia) can be stopped, particularly if he is also the sitting President.  Too many smaller states will aslo take the view that discretion is the better part of valour and why piss off a Commission President who is going to be re-elected anyway?

However you don't make a policy case as to why Barroso should be opposed - beyond the generic accusations of neo-liberalism which appear to apply to most EU Governments and the EU Commission itself.  There appears to be little political argument that the Barroso led Commission is part of the problem and not part of the solution to the Global economic and fiscal crisis.

The PES should be making that argument, but are they?  The Greens may be making that argument, but are likely to be marginalised as economic worries trump environmental concerns.  We could end up with the amazing anomaly that the EU polity moves to the right just as neo-liberalism is comprehensively discredited and Obama attempts to move the US to the left.  Could there be any greater indictment of our political culture and inability to mobilise effective democratic support for an alternative agenda?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 10:54:52 AM EST
I think you put your finger on a key issue here:

The culture of the Commission is that of a "civil service" which means that it evolves in a different way to that of a political entity.

That has pros and cons, but (as is the case with the British Civil Service) it is a large problem, IMO, that the culture of the Commission has become quite knee-jerk neo-liberal because it will not be quickly changed.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 11:05:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's sort of surprising to me is that Hollande is supporting Cohn-Bendit here.

You are absolutely correct to say that the PES has largely passed over to being part of the problem, which is really unfortunate. And, unfortunately, with the notable exceptions of the Netherlands and Germany, there are not yet viable alternatives. What we are doing here with the Front de Gauche is a good start but, NPA's non-participation is really disappointing, at least to me. We could be really getting ready to do well with a little cooperation.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 02:08:13 PM EST
I thought the PES would put forth Poul Nyrup Rasmussen... But without the British, Portuguese and Spanish member parties that's dead in the water.

The other campaign that is gathering steam is the ALDE's Graham Watson for President of the European Parliament, though I think the chances of him winning the post are slim.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 03:47:54 PM EST
What are the internal mechanisms in PES? Do they need to be unanimous or can a mayority whip the minority into supporting their candidate?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:17:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is just one more issue - pan-european campaigning - where the PES has allowed the EPP-ED to take the initiative.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 03:48:51 PM EST
And I hear there's room for a UK party in the EPP-ED group, where nuLabour may fit in better after all.

Good snark. But seriously, has the tories left the ED? Or are they intending to?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:20:07 AM EST
New Statesman: Cameron's Euro gamble (17 March 2009)
The Tory break with the EPP grouping in the European Parliament could spell trouble for the party, forced to choose between unsavoury allies and obscurity

This may seem like one for anoraks only, but David Cameron's decision to honour his leadership election promise to split from the European People's Party has important implications for politics, both here and on the continent, that deserve wider attention. It leaves the European right fragmented and weakened by ideological division and raises serious questions about the depth and sincerity of Cameron's shift to the political centre. It also risks leaving the UK more internationally isolated under an incoming Conservative government than at any time since joining the EEC in 1973.

By any normal standard the move is an odd one. Leaving the EPP means forfeiting considerable influence as the second largest party in the European Parliament's largest political group in exchange for a very uncertain future. The best case scenario is that the Conservatives will find enough allies to form a group of around fifty MEPs, putting them on a par with the communists and the greens on Strasbourg's fringe. But even this may prove tricky. To pass the required threshold, a political group must have member parties in at least seven different member states. At the moment the Conservatives can only rely on the Czech ODS. Unless they can find MEPs from five other EU countries to join them, the Conservatives will have to choose one of the following: to fade into groupless obscurity, to join a group that includes neo-fascists or to crawl back to the EPP with their tails between their legs. Cameron's move is a gamble that could yet end in humiliation

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:26:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I understand it correctly they are in the process of leaving by forming a new group, perhaps around the old ED. Are there any dates (after the election perhaps) when we can expect to know? Is there for example a date when group allegiences must be reported to the chairs of the EP?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:47:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They have already communicated to the EPP their intention of leaving after the June elections and to form a different group "after the elections". I presume the formation of groups happens when the EP is constituted.

The Guardian: After two decades, Tories move to cut ties with European allies (12 March 2009 )

Ahead of European parliament elections in June, Hague and the Tories' Europe spokesman, Mark Francois, met Joseph Daul, the head of the European People's party (EPP) caucus, the parliament's biggest grouping, made up of Christian Democrats and mainstream conservatives from all of the EU's 27 members.

"The meeting was amicable and during the course of it, we confirmed to Daul our longstanding intention to leave the EPP and establish a new grouping in the European parliament after the elections," Francois said.

The Conservatives have been threatening to quit the EPP since David Cameron became party leader in 2006, with Hague regarded as an arch-exponent of a policy that critics and the opposition see as a move voluntarily pushing the party to the fringes of European politics.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:19:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See Chapter 4 of the European Parliament Rules of Procedure. Groups are communicated to the President and the Conference of Presidents (President of Parliament and Presidents of Groups) allocate things like where in the chamber MEPs will sit, etc.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:22:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't find any confirmation that Zapatero has supported Barroso and the campaign links don't work, does anybody have another source?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 08:28:03 PM EST
Here are a few links:

Neurope: Sarkozy blessing boosts Barroso return hopes

However, Sarkozy suggested delaying Barroso's appointment until after an October referendum in Ireland, which advocates hope will pave the way for new rules governing the way the European Commission is made up to come into force. Barroso can also rely on the support of British Premier Gordon Brown, who heads a Labour government, as well as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist. "We have always supported him as a president of the European Commission, he has been a good president for the interests of Spain," Zapatero said.

Financial Times (Tony Barber): Big job, tiny electorate: Barroso set fair for a second term

On the left, meanwhile, Portugal's José Sócrates and Spain's José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero are behind Barroso. So, too, is Matti Vanhanen, Finland's centrist prime minister.

An inside take (of the federalists) can be found here. First comment.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 07:59:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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