Wednesday 27 May 2009

There's no 'done deal' on Barroso

I keep reading in the media that Barroso’s second term as Commission President is a ‘done deal’.

I disagree.

It’s true that that many Governments are supporting him and so his nomination by the Council for a second term looks likely.

But the Council’s nomination is not sure. It is due to make its nomination on June 18/19 – very likely before a majority in the Parliament has been finalised. A proposal to postpone the Council until later in the month, when a new Parliamentary majority is more likely to be in place, is being resisted by guess who.

Barroso has been lobbying capitals for months if not years to give him a second term and is now is trying ensure that the Council nominates him before they know the majority in the Parliament. That’s not the behaviour of a man with a done deal.

And why the recent round of media interviews? Is this the behaviour of a man with a done deal, or the act of a man anxious to create the impression of a done deal?

Then there is the much more problematic question of the majority in the Parliament. The FT’s Wolfgang Munchau wrote “If the centre-right wins the elections to the European parliament, as everybody seems to expect, nothing can stop Mr Barroso’s bandwagon.” But whatever anyone expects the centre-right cannot ‘win’ the election. The European conservatives, who have nominated Barroso as their candidate, may say they are going to be the largest group – but even in their wildest dreams they don’t expect a majority. I can state as a matter of fact that on June 8 – the day after the European elections – the European conservatives will not have a majority on their own.

They need other political groups to support them or enter some agreement with them – and they do not have an alliance or a coalition lined up with anyone else for the next Parliament. Getting a majority is not a simple matter. It is hard to imagine the yet to be formed anti-federalist group led by British and Czech Conservatives being in a hurry to pledge their support for Barroso. And even if they were, that would still not deliver a majority. The future of other right of centre groups is uncertain.

I have already explained in a previous blog why we Socialists are much less likely in 2009 to enter an agreement with the Conservatives than we were in 2004. The Greens are supporting a campaign ‘anyone but Barroso’. And why would the Liberals rush into a deal to vote for Barroso? The Liberal former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, who is standing in the European elections, is being touted in some quarters as an alternative to Barroso.

The Parliament looks set to vote on the President of the Commission on July 15. Neither Mr Munchau nor anybody else knows what the majority in the Parliament will be on July 15 as it will be the outcome of negotiations between groups (some of which do not even yet exist, and will take some time to come into being) following the elections. There may not even be a fixed majority.

But I wholly agree with the admirable Mr Munchau when he describes Mr Barroso as “among the weakest Commission presidents ever”.

He says the likelihood of Barroso getting a second term is “very depressing”. I might join Mr Munchau in being depressed if I believed that it’s practically a done deal.

But thankfully it isn’t – it’s spin by Barroso and his supporters.

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