EU Backs Barroso for Second Term
Spars Over Ireland’s Pledges
European Commission President Jose Barroso won backing for a second five-year term, while leaders moved closer to overcoming Ireland’s veto of a treaty designed to boost Europe’s global role, according to Bloomberg.
At a European Union summit in Brussels, Barroso, 53, a former prime minister of Portugal, promised further steps to end the deepest recession since World War II, tighten financial regulations and combat global warming.
Europe’s “response to this economic and financial crisis and to have progress in fighting climate change” are “the immediate priorities,” Barroso told a news conference early today after the summit’s first session.
The pro-Barroso consensus went along with steps to persuade Ireland to lift the final obstacles to the EU’s new governing treaty, which would endow the bloc with a full-time president and foreign minister and strengthen the European Parliament.
Barroso’s victory was less than complete. Instead of making a formal nomination, the 27 leaders decided to first hold consultations with the Parliament to head off a possible challenge to a second term.
Under pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the result was a “political decision” to put off the appointment until it is sure he will win a majority in the 736-seat Parliament, which has the power to confirm EU appointments.
Others had pressed for an official nomination to force the Parliament’s hand. Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen urged a “clear decision” on Barroso, and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt opposed a delay.
“This is the candidate standing for reelection,” Reinfeldt said. “There is no one else. So why wait?”
Barroso started his term at the commission, the EU’s executive arm, with business deregulation as a top priority, then shifted focus to fighting global warming and seeking Europe’s energy independence.
When the financial crisis struck in October, the commission initially took a back seat, looking on as national governments spent more than 165 billion euros ($229 billion) to shore up banks staggering from $454 billion in writedowns and credit losses, about a third of the worldwide total of $1.46 trillion.
Regaining the initiative, the commission went on to propose the stiffer regulation of hedge funds and credit rating companies and a more centralized bank-supervisory system.
“We’re going to have a less liberal commission,” said Philip Whyte, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London. “We’re going to have a commission that’s more prone to regulate and possibly more prone to protectionism.”
The summit resumes at 10 a.m. today with the rescue of the Lisbon Treaty atop the agenda.
Ireland threw the EU into constitutional limbo last year when its voters rejected the treaty, which requires unanimous, 27-nation passage to take effect. Parliaments in the other 26 have ratified the new rulebook, though it also awaits presidential signatures in the Czech Republic and Poland and a court verdict in Germany.
Ireland plans to call a new referendum as long as the summit offers ironclad assurances that the new treaty won’t upset Ireland’s tax policy, military neutrality or curbs on abortion.
“Positions are getting closer,” Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, the summit’s chairman, told the press conference. “I am convinced that we shall devise a solution which will provide clear guarantees for Irish voters.”
In a letter released yesterday, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen insisted on a “clear and unequivocal commitment” that the guarantees offer the “maximum possible legal reassurance” to Irish voters.
“If I can find a satisfactory outcome, we’ll then move to the next stage, which would be setting of date for the referendum,” Cowen told reporters before the summit.
The treaty would be the fourth EU constitutional revamp since 1991 as the bloc seeks to boost its global profile, expand the 16-country region using the euro currency and complete the integration of eastern Europe.
In the debate on financial regulation yesterday, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown won an agreement that a future EU banking regulator won’t have the power to override national authorities, an official said.
“It is only logical that where a supervisory decision will have an impact on the taxpayer, that decision should be for the relevant national authority,” Brown told a pre-summit press conference.
Brown later got EU leaders to affirm a June 9 decision by finance ministers that European regulators “should not impinge in any way on member states’ fiscal responsibilities.”