Monday, June 28, 2004

Only three days to go

It looks like Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durão Barroso is all set to become the chosen one. Tomorrow evening at the special Summit after the NATO Summit (goodness me, all these summits – when do they get any gardening done?) his name will be proposed to the assembled leaders. As they all seem to have agreed already, this is likely to be a formality.

French and German approval will not come without a price tag attached. They are likely to lobby for important positions for “their” super-commissioners. Chancellor Schröder has already started to campaign for the new economic and industry portfolio for his man, present Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen.

With economic policy set to become Community competence, this position will be supremely important. Given Germany’s economic woes, we can look forward to a great deal of economic and industrial legislation that will ensure a “level playing field”, i.e. as little competition as possible.

However, France has very similar economic woes and President Chirac may well want the same position to go to the French Commissioner.

In the meantime, the Socialist group in the European Parliament (PSE), which is the second largest, has intimated its dissatisfaction with the choice of a right of centre candidate for the Presidency. The European Parliament will have to approve Señhor Barroso's presidency in the autumn.

It is unlikely that he will be rejected but there might be rough passages and the Socialist group, too, will have to be appeased.

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