MEPs set to back new Barroso term

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

Euro-MPs are expected to back Jose Manuel Barroso as European Commission president for another five years today.

Luke-warm endorsement is likely in a vote in Strasbourg after months of muscle-flexing by centre-left MEPs determined to oust the centre-right former Portuguese prime minister.

Twenty-seven EU leaders – including seven socialist premiers – have already supported Mr Barroso’s bid to stay on.

But Socialist MEPs, smarting from a drubbing in the Euro-elections, decided to drag out their opposition despite failing to produce a credible alternative candidate.

That meant delays until now in the formal approval required from a majority in the European Parliament.

Centre-right and Liberal Democrat MEPs are voting for Mr Barroso, who urged the European Parliament yesterday to give him a clear mandate to deliver a “transformational” agenda and a “stronger” Europe. But to appease anti-federalists he insisted: “A stronger Europe does not mean a more centralised Europe. I believe in decisions being taken at the most appropriate level.”

He countered accusations of a failure of leadership during his first five years in office, vowing to answer MEPs’ concerns by consulting them more.

He promised to deliver a stronger social market economy, sustainable economic green growth, energy security, a crackdown on “shocking” bank bonuses and a “root and branch” reform of the EU budget.

He has been accused of being in thrall to EU governments, but has pushed policies and agendas which have often run to counter to the wishes of the member states.

Accused of being a “compromise candidate”, he declared yesterday: “Of course, Europe itself is a compromise. The European Union cannot run on fanaticism and dogmatism.”

Opponents say he presided over the political catastrophe of the EU Constitution, rejected by two founding EU nations, and then the replacement Lisbon treaty, rejected once by Ireland – so far.

Today Mr Barroso hopes he gets the green light to start work immediately on assembling his new commission team and preparing the ground for top jobs – a “President of Europe” and a new foreign policy chief – which will be created if the Lisbon Treaty is approved.

Mr Barroso intends beefing up his commission team by creating the three new powerful posts: Commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and civil liberties, commissioner for climate action and commissioner for internal affairs and migration, including security.

Many MEPs said he was offering more of the same diet of compromise EU politics disguised as a bold new strategy.

But Mr Barroso pleaded: “We all have our differing political convictions. But in times of crisis those differences need to make space for the greater common good.”

Mr Barroso is due to visit Ireland tomorrow.

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