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Will the real Señhor Barroso please stand up?

Posted by Helen Friday, August 20, 2004

The new Commission – the one that is going to do miracles, reform the European Union, make it progressive, free-trading, Atlanticist, all the things it was never intended to be – has had its first get-together.

This is all very unofficial, since the Commission has not yet been accepted by the European Parliament, but, frankly, who cares? Individual Commissioners will face the Parliamentarians in the autumn, tell them that they will do wonderful things for “Europe”, answer a few quite simple questions and that will be the end of the matter.

Barroso has also given interviews on what the Commission under him will achieve. High on the list is the idea that it will make Europe the most dynamic, competitive economy in the world by 2010. There is only one problem with this idea: there is no such thing really as a European economy.

There are the various national economies, some of which are doing well, some badly and some, in particular Germany, who has provided the Industry and Enterprise Commissioner, even worse.

What has our Commission President in mind for those national economies, who, together, may be said to add up to a European economy? First and foremost, he will continue with the outgoing President’s plans to increase the EU Budget from around 100 billion euros a year to about 143 billion euros a year. This, he thinks will be necessary to carry out ambitious European policies, which cannot be carried out with “insufficient funds”.

In other words, this free marketeer thinks that the best policy is higher taxation of both successful and unsuccessful economies, in order to have money to spend on grand EU-wide projects or to redistribute it to other parts of the Union, thus ensuring that they remain constant aid-recipients. David Ricardo, he ain’t.

It seems that, just possibly, this curious contradiction in his aims has slipped into Barroso’s consciousness. Quietly, he seems to have acknowledged that making Europe the most dynamic economy by 2010 is a bit of a pipe-dream.

"I think we should do as much as possible to come near that goal. It was a very ambitious goal and many consider it too ambitious."
He is thinking of asking the member states of postponing the target date. Though he also added:

"The goal of becoming the most competitive economy in the world is one we can achieve and we should not feel discouraged."
Well, why should we feel discouraged? This is not the first time the EU and its officials have managed to turn political terminology upside down. The only surprising thing is that anyone, in the media still falls for it.