The Great Debate UK
Could the European Union be among the big losers of the global financial crisis?
Despite signs that recession in Europe may be bottoming out, the 27-nation bloc risks emerging from the turmoil with its economic growth potential stunted, its public finances shackled by mountains of debt, and its international influence weakened.
That is the backdrop to Jose Manuel Barroso's campaign for a second term as president of the executive European Commission. In a manifesto sent to EU lawmakers last week, he warns that unless Europeans shape up to the challenge together, "Europe will become irrelevant".
The conservative former Portuguese prime minister is seeking a confirmation vote in the European Parliament this month, so a degree of dramatisation is to be expected. But there is no hiding the setback the crisis has dealt to European integration. Barroso has rightly put economic recovery at the top of his agenda, but he lacks powerful levers to achieve his goals at a time when the knee-jerk response in Europe has often been to revert to national economic solutions.
The recent crisis showed that there remains a strong short-term temptation to roll back the single market when times are hard, he acknowledges in the 41-page document.