The Great Debate UK
Jose Manuel Barroso promised the European Parliament that as re-elected president of the European Commission he will have more authority to fight for Europe and defend its single market against economic nationalism.
But after five years of toadying to the big member states, he will need to show more spine to enforce state aid and competition rules on Germany, Britain and France in the teeth of strong national financial or commercial interests.
The conservative former Portuguese prime minister, backed by all 27 EU governments, won an impressive absolute majority of EU lawmakers -- more than the simple majority he required. That
gives him a stronger hand when facing inevitable pressure from the big boys over the carve-up of key Commission portfolios.
Recent Commission moves to query state aid to banks (such as Dutch guarantees for ING) and scrutinise public funding of auto industry rescues (Germany's bung for Opel) are encouraging. But it remains to be seen whether Barroso, now he is no longer reliant on them for re-appointment, has the character to stand up to Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy or Gordon Brown on politically sensitive cases. In his first term, he often appeared to be a trimmer, a multilingual chameleon.
An intriguing story in Le Monde reports that French Prime Minister Francois Fillon (pictured left with Barroso and President Nicolas Sarkozy) is considering offering his services as head of the European Union executive if Barroso fails to win majority support from the European Parliament this month. Le Monde quotes an unidentified French minister and an anonymous senior diplomat, with a comment from Fillon's office declining to speculate on a Barroso failure and saying that of course, the prime minister is interested in Europe but he hasn't put himself forward as a candidate.
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".
- Danny Sriskandarajah is Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society. The opinions expressed are his own -
In recent years the Commonwealth has become an easily derided organisation. From its inception as a clever way of easing de-colonisation to the heady 1970s and 1980s when the association showed a radical dynamism on issues like Apartheid, the international association has shown itself to be unique and useful.
Lawrence Sheets is Caucasus Project Director of the International Crisis Group. The opinions expressed are his own.
The truce that ended last summer’s war between Russia and Georgia may be more or less holding for now, but the structures keeping the peace are crumbling due to Russian pressure and Western acquiescence.
- Brigitte Triems is president of the European Women’s Lobby, the largest non-governmental women’s organisation in the European Union, representing approximately 2000 organisations in 30 European Countries. Working with its members at national and European levels, the EWL’s main objective is to fight for gender equality and to ensure the integration of a gender perspective in all EU policy areas. The opinions expressed are her own. -
Some Europeans like to claim that we have achieved equality between women and men in Europe, and that the struggle for equality belongs to another, preferably faraway, region. Unfortunately there is little reality behind these claims.