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Barroso's second term hangs by a thread: the elections!

(B2)The reappointment of José-Manuel Barroso as President of the Commission seems a given by listening to the spreaders of news, who are to information what bread is to bread, the diffusers of odors near bakeries... a simple artificial fragrance. But when you ask your interlocutor on what basis he asserts this, he looks at you with a look of surprise. “But everyone supports him…” To therefore claim that Barroso will be renewed in his Commission mandate for 5 years, from June, is to ignore three “small” elements of a legal, political and, above all, democratic order.

1° The legal reality. According to the Treaty, the President of the European Commission is certainly appointed by the Member States. But above all it must be endorsed by the new European Parliament, whose first constitutive meeting takes place in July. And no one knows what majority will come out of the polls in June, nor what alliance will be formed in Parliament afterwards. Especially since the number of deputies will be reduced compared to that existing today (we go from 785 to 736 deputies).

political realism. While it is true that certain heads of government have said they want to support JM Barroso. Many of them immediately added “for the moment” or “I don't see any other candidates”. For lack of something better... Which amounts to saying, I have a candidate but I don't show my card until the others have dubbed him. In two large countries (Germany, France), at least, Barroso's fate is not assured (especially since there are elections in Germany).

3° The democratic fact. The June elections are such a combination of factors (national, number of parties running, European, cyclical), that it is very difficult today to be peremptory. Several trends can be highlighted and play out during the election:
A) the possible rise of social democrats PSE – or, at least, a lesser “fall” than expected – for two reasons. On the one hand, the economic context: the financial crisis has undoubtedly brought grist to the mill of the social-democratic parties. On the other hand, the political context: in several large countries (except the United Kingdom and Spain), they are not in government (or at least do not have leadership as in Germany or the Netherlands) and could benefit from the “opposition effect”.
B) The possible good score of a left-wing party ex-communist (financial crisis helping), could also have an effect which strengthens the left side of the assembly (compensates for the crushing of the PSE);
C) The Green (helping energy crisis) should also make an honorable score.
D) On the other hand, for the group liberal democrat in the center, nothing is certain. Will he be able to maintain his pivotal role? Or will he have to deal with a new EPP, or with the Greens.
E) The appearance of one (or two) group(s) ofextreme right and/or sovereignist-populist – with elements who would be tempted to separate from the EPP, could weaken it.

Finally, it is not at all said that the European People's Party (EPP-DE) – the Christian Democrats – retains the clear lead it has today in the European Parliament (unless recomposition with the liberal center). If he finds himself cut back on his right and threatened by the center left, he will have to, at a minimum, deal with two or three other parties to have a majority: with the populist right and with the liberals or even the Greens. To firstly keep the presidency of Parliament – ​​and of the main committees. Then to impose its candidate for the presidency of the Commission. Now if there is one candidate who today makes the Liberals, the Greens and the Social Democrats roar so much, it is Barroso. Ask Graham Watson, Dany Cohn-Bendit or Martin Schulz, respectively at the head of these parties today, what they think. Presenting Barroso's name certainly poses a certain risk to the EPP of not having a majority. Especially since within the EPP, certain parties or at least certain personalities from these countries – such as the CDU, the UMP or the Dutch CDA – are not fans of the character… Another more presentable candidate, arousing less controversy could therefore pass.

Next: Barroso's record


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).