Friday 12 June 2009

EU Commission President: Facts and speculation Barroso vs Verhofstadt

If the European Council 18 to 19 June 2009 nominates José Manuel Barroso, by a qualified majority, to become President of the Commission, the matter appears before the newly elected European Parliament for approval.

Under the Treaty of Nice, still in force, the approval requires a simple majority (Article 214 of the Treaty establishing the European Community; TEC).

The political groups in the European are not fully formed yet, but with 264 MEPs the biggest group, the European People’s Party (EPP) is still far from a majority for Barroso.

The official Election results are somewhat behind the events with regard to the groups, but offer the main facts.

Rainbow coalition?

In principle, a rainbow coalition of the Left, ASDE (ex PES), the Greens and ALDE (Liberals) would now have 347 votes, after the Italian Partito Democratico joined the renamed Socialist Group.

This is fairly close to a majority of the representatives (369), but it still looks like a chimera, even if Barroso is seen as a weak choice by swathes of politicians and public opinion.

Many socialist and liberal MEPs belong to national parties led by heads of governments behind a re-election of Barroso.

British, Spanish and Portuguese PES representatives were among these long before the European elections. Only the Democrats part of ALDE has indicated that it will vote against Barroso. Other groups and individual MEPs might fall into line with the nomination by the European Council, possibly unanimous.

Without clear indications to the contrary, there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, although a secret ballot offers MEPs with reservations about Barroso the chance to defy their national party leaders by voting for Guy Verhofstadt.

EPP plus?

The ‘European Conservatives’ of the UK Tories, the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) and the Czech ODS have 49 MEPs at the moment, but we are still waiting for the announcements on further recruitment among the remaining 76 MEPs (provisionally classified as Others, UEN, IND/DEM).

In theory, these presently unsorted MEPs could boost the EPP vote to 389, and it is possible that many among the 125 nationalists, anti-federalists and others prefer Barroso as the lesser evil.

However, some of them are rejectionists at heart, with scant inclination to vote constructively. For Barroso and the heads of state or government it would be an embarrassment to have the Commission President carried into office on the votes of ultra-nationalists, xenophobes and fascists.

Therefore, expect the members of the European Council to lean on MEPs to pre-empt a rainbow coalition.

Ralf Grahn

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