Thursday, July 22, 2004

Taking on the pilot

He hasn’t even been appointed yet but he is already sounding as if he has been in post years. EU commission presidente-designate, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, has been up in front of the EU parliament, promising to open a "new chapter in EU integration".

"Europe needs a strong, credible and independent Commission," he told the assembled MEPs. "I pledge to work actively for a Europe which is much more than only a market: I want Europe which is also social and cultural ... Let us together open a new chapter in European integration," he added.

Despite, or more likely because of this, the expectation is that his coronation will be affirmed by a vote today, although he has not been without his critics.

Some socialists and greens have sniped at him over his policies as Portuguese prime minister and for his support for the US-led in the war in Iraq. Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson also recalled that Durao Barroso had once likened the EU to an aircraft with no-one in the cockpit. "We want a hands-on pilot at the controls of the European Union," he said.

But pride of place for the stupidest comment in the new session of parliament – so far – goes to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, former terrorist sympathiser and now leader of the Greens.

Attacking Barroso for possibly being "too susceptible to persuasion by his former counterparts", Bandit declared that he was in favour of a pilot. "But is this pilot going to change direction every time he is asked by one of his passengers or the control tower?" he asked.

Well, I don’t know about the passengers – although one hopes he will go in the direction they want (first time for everything). But, as to the control tower… does Bandit really want a pilot who ignores instructions from that source? Are the Greens really that stupid?

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