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Jose Manuel Barroso

Barroso Overboard?

Jose Manuel Barroso 18%

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It is time for José Manuel Barroso to start selling himself. His chances of being re-appointed as President of the European Commission depend on the case he makes. 

Until the global financial crisis broke, Barroso looked fairly certain to get a second five-year term. Now, it is becoming increasingly hard to find diplomats or policymakers who support him. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is said to have been disappointed by Barroso’s performance during last autumn's financial meltdown, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also seems to have fallen silent on the matter of his future. 

No one doubts that Barroso is in an awkward position. The European Commission has few powers of its own with which to confront the recession as it spreads throughout the European Union; most powers belong to the European Central Bank. But the Commission does have a voice with which to rally people, and it is for their silence that Barroso and his fellow commissioners are being rebuked. 

The perceived lack of leadership from the Commission at this time of deepening economic gloom is just the tip of the iceberg. The events of recent months have crystallized more deep-seated concerns. 

When Barroso, the former Portuguese prime minister, was awarded the EU post by his fellow heads of government, he appeared to be a dynamic new broom who would sweep away the cobwebs left by his predecessor, Italy’s Romano Prodi. But, with the passage of time, the Barroso-led Commission has also come under fire for being unadventurous and lacklustre. Even before the clouds of recession began to gather, Euroskepticism was on the rise, with the Commission blamed, rightly or wrongly, for the EU’s failure “to reach out to the citizen.” 

The job of Commission President is arguably among the most difficult in the world. The institution has been in near-imperceptible decline for almost 20 years, thanks to the rise of the European Parliament and the way EU member governments have whittled away its authority whil. consolidating their own powers as the EU’s true legislators. Yet the head of the Commission is called upon to be the dynamic public face of Europe.

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by Giles Merritt

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