Sunday, November 21, 2004

Poor old Barroso

If ever there was a man who could mutter with feeling Henry IV’s comments about the head that wears the crown lying uneasy, it is commission president Barroso. Not even a crown but the fake presidency of a fake republic. Why, he must be wondering, did he ever agree to this supposed elevation? He must have been much happier fighting the Portuguese trade unions.

His first commission had to be withdrawn with two commissioners replaced. Now his brand new (well, practically) commission is under fire again for no good reason. After all what’s a fraud conviction (complete with presidential pardon) between friends?

The worst of it is that he is not precisely in charge of the whole shebang. It is all very well for the egregious Lib-Dim Lord Watson to proclaim pompously that a man like Jacques "wheel" Barrot must not be allowed to hold the post of transport commissioner but what is Barroso to do?

Moving him to another post will not solve the problem. He cannot replace him. Only president Chirac can do that and he is not, to quote another Shakespeare play, "in a giving mood". Actually, unlike Richard III, Chirac is never in a giving mood, unless it is a question of presidential pardons to political cronies.

That is how the system works and the MEPs had better get used to it. The individual countries nominate their commissioners. The President allots them jobs. The European Parliament votes the whole lot in or out. The process has now been completed. We shall see whether anyone will have enough courage to open it up again.

President Barroso must be wondering very uneasily what other scandal might emerge about his precious commissioners.

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