Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Only two days to go

Yes, it looks like there will be an agreement tonight. After the less than totally successful NATO Summit in Istanbul, the EU leaders will reconvene in Brussels and will formally ask Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durão Barroso to take in the mantle of European Commission Presidency.

Some journalists have interpreted this as a British victory and, undoubtedly, France and Germany will call it that, hoping to get some kind of a quid pro quo for their supposed acquiescence. But it is hard to see how it could be described as such, since in the first place Britain was supporting the Portuguese Commissioner Antonio Vitorino. Unless, of course, it is now British policy that the President of the European Commission must be Portuguese, no matter who.

If Seňhor Durão Barroso does become President, it will be a victory for all those countries, and there are now many, who do not want to be messed about by the Franco-German axis.

If he becomes President. There is still a question of what will happen in Portugal. Durão Barroso’s government is not very popular because of his attempts to reform the bloated state sector and rein in the deficit. Some say that he will be very happy to abandon the mess in Lisbon and go to Brussels. But then there might be a general election and his party will almost certainly lose. An incentive not to go to Brussels, perhaps.

The Socialist Group in the European Parliament is threatening to make trouble and there has been noisy criticism from trade unions and non-governmental organizations, who are not supposed to become involved in political discussions.

Giampiero Alhadeff, secretary-general of Solidar, an alliance of European social and development non-governmental organizations, has complained about the undemocratic and untransparent way in which Durão Barroso was chosen. For undemocratic, read “not one of us”. Exactly how does a pan-European alliance of NGOs know anything about democracy or transparency? One of the most difficult things in the world is to find where a particular NGO gets its money from, how it uses the money and what the results of specific projects are.

Well, not long now. This time tomorrow we should be over the next stretch of this tortuous process.

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