Strasbourg: Months of heated political debate are set to end later on Wednesday when members of the European parliament vote on whether to return Jose Manuel Barroso to the EU’s most high-profile post.
Since they were elected in June, many parties in the new assembly have variously railed against the incumbent European Commission president, notably over his handling of the economic crisis.
But no other candidate has emerged and as Barroso put the finishing touches to his campaign in Strasbourg on Tuesday, it appeared that he had clinched the support of at least the minimum 369 of the 736 deputies to win a new five-year mandate.
In a last appeal to garner maximum backing, the former Portuguese premier vowed to take on board some of the recommendations he had heard from the house for his second term.
“What I propose is no less than a transformational agenda for Europe,” he told the lawmakers, in a raucous final hearing.
“If you want a strong commission that stands up to (EU) member states, you should give this commission the strong support it needs,” he said, arguing that a second term would bolster the role of the European institutions.
Support from the 53-year old politician’s conservative brethren was never in question, but the Socialist bloc, the second largest in the parliament, has refused to back him, although some members might break ranks.
The Greens had most vehemently opposed him as a lackey of the leaders of the 27 European Union member states and refuse to give their vote, but even they failed to stand up another candidate.
“I have to say that I believe I must be hallucinating,” Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit told the assembly, at the idea that some colleagues might think Barroso would stand up to the EU’s leaders.
“Jose Manuel Obama—Yes, he can,” Cohn-Bendit said, in a mocking parody of US President Barack Obama’s election campaign theme.
Yet Barroso was the only publicly-declared contender for the top job.
The European Commission is the EU’s executive arm. Based in Brussels, it is responsible for drawing up legislation that impacts on the lives of about half a billion Europeans, as well as enforcing the rules already in place.
Its president—who like the commissioners is appointed rather than elected—has significant leverage to influence legislative priorities. The commission will have a budget of €138 billion ($200 billion) in 2010.