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Barroso not reappointed to the Commission?

(B2)José-Manuel Barroso, current president of the European Commission, is a candidate to succeed him, this is no secret. However, with the delay in the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (because of the Irish “No”), the position of President of the Commission takes on a different challenge than when there were three or four positions to be distributed (president of Europe and quasi Minister of Foreign Affairs) between the Member States. And the candidacy of the former Portuguese Prime Minister, ardent defender of intervention in Iraq, took a bit of a hit with the inaction of the European Commission during the financial crisis, especially from “serious” contenders. for the post of President of the Commission emerges.

How Barroso downgraded the role of the European Commission
In all the major subjects under discussion, the European Commission has fallen short of its real role. She did very little to defend European interests during the negotiations on the 2007-2013 budgetary framework (the financial perspectives). During the debate on the “Services” directive, she did not grasp the change in balance that had taken place in the European Parliament and allowed herself to be overtaken by the MEPs. During successive referendum campaigns, on the Constitution or the Lisbon Treaty, it was excessively discreet, not responding to all the exaggerations which punctuated the campaigns, or even contributing to them (when a commissioner like the Irishman McCreevy said that naturally he has not read the Treaty, even if it is a little local communication trick, we cannot say that it contributes to giving a positive image of Europe). Finally, the
The collective decision-making capacity of the college is reduced to its minimum, with the president's office wanting to control everything. Result: by always lowering the initiatives of the European Commission to the minimum, JM. Barroso has not actually harmed anyone in particular, quite the contrary. But it has served the general interest of Europeans very little.

Legislating less leads to disaster
As soon as it was a question of legislating, regulating, setting limits or encouraging European harmonization (which is – let us emphasize – the primary role dedicated to the Commission, and to it alone,
in European construction), in many cases over the past 4 years, it has retreated or had a “Malthusian” attitude, limiting its role. Which is ultimately harmful to Europe. The financial crisis is the most visible proof of this. For several months, several years, the Commission has preferred to let the banks and the market self-regulate. However, in the absence of regulation, it is the market that reigns. And when the market itself panics, there are no more rules, no more barriers. And we must then intervene urgently, in a disorderly manner. We forget all the precepts of yesterday – the rules of competition – intangible the day before – become dangerously flexible; state intervention in the economy becomes the rule; the criteria of budgetary stability are set aside (temporarily)… Which can in a certain way contribute to the spiral of panic.

The guardian of the treaty has given way to reason of state
We can note in passing that the European Commission – whose role is also to “keep” the spirit and letter of the European treaty, and in particular to ensure respect for fundamental rights, has been excessively discreet when these were a little heckled: cf. recently the Roma in Italy or the possible sanctions considered for a time in Poland against the too independent attitude of Geremek and other liberal, democratic or social-democratic MEPs.

Barroso’s “luck”: not having a candidate facing him…
No one solid who brings together all the qualities claims the position… This is the key word of Barroso's renewal campaign. There may be no shortage of competitors in the coming months. July 2009 (date when the appointment is normally made) is still far away. Until now, no “notable” name had come to disrupt this beautiful battle plan. Recently, a candidate stood up, in Germany, who does not lack quality in more than one way.

…can end against a strong candidate: Wolfgang Schaüble.
The German Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaüble, would be a candidate if I believe information from across the Rhine. The man brings together several qualities: we cannot deny his qualities of commitment as a European (he was the co-author in 1994 with Lamers of a paper on the future of the EU). He has the advantage of being of the color of the majority party in the European Parliament, the PPE-DE. He is of a nationality, German, which has not held the presidency of the Commission for 40 years (it's a detail but it counts). At the same time, he has a certain independence vis-à-vis Merkel which can be both useful in convincing her to support his candidacy and certain political adversaries not to be totally opposed to it. Finally, it has serious expertise on some of the themes that are “rising” at the European level (terrorism, asylum and immigration, criminal cooperation, etc.).

In short, Schaüble is an excellent candidate. Born in 1942, head of the Federal Chancellery, with Helmut Kohl, during the great European epic, he took the head of the CDU-CSU party in the Bundestag in 1991 - where victim of corruption scandals - he was replaced by a certain Angela Merkel. In 1990, he was the victim of an attack and has been using a wheelchair ever since.

So Barroso… a High Representative?
e increasingly active in the field of common foreign and security policy. Present in Moscow, New York, the G8, alongside President Sarkozy, Barroso could see himself taking over from Javier Solana in the role of High Representative for Foreign Policy. A position which perfectly suits this polyglot, pro-Atlanticist, more intergovernmental than federalist, more concerned with diplomatic issues than with the substantive work of the European Commission, more concerned with respecting the wishes of the major Member States or arbitrating their interests than to confront them. The only problem is that there is usually a clever balance between the different political families. And with two positions held by representatives of the Christian Democratic family (EPP), the socialists would be marginalized. In the event of the Lisbon Treaty entering into force during the mandate of the next European Commission, the current President of the Commission would thus be the Vice-President. It's a bit unexpected. But it should be noted that the position of High Representative (Lisbon Treaty version) is not quite the same as that of High Representative (Nice Treaty version). By having a foot in each institution, he combines a certain number of powers (foreign affairs, defense, etc.) which undeniably make him a heavyweight within the Commission.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).