Jean Quatremer (original French, Google translation) has a strongly worded critique of José Manuel Barroso’s role in the process of drafting the European Constitution, and his (lack of) reaction as Commission President during the 2005 No votes in France and Netherlands, and then the Commission’s flat reaction to the goings-on in Ireland’s referendum campaign. Quatremer particularly recalls Irish Commissioner Charlie McCreevy remarking that he too had not read the Treaty of Lisbon – even if McCreevy hasn’t read it then it’s unacceptable to say so from a member of the Commission, and Barroso failed to react. What’s that in the Treaty about the general competence of the Commissioners…?

Anyway, I diverge. Quatremer is right – the time must now be up for Barroso. While he might have found favour in London he’s presided over the Commission throughout what can only be described as an awful few years for the EU and to re-appoint him would be absurd and unacceptable. Equally Member States should avoid sending failed national politicians to make up the next Commission – that too sends the wrong signals to national electorates.

So who should actually be nominated as Commission President? Pascal Lamy would be my choice, and I reckon he’s someone that would appeal to Quatremer too.


  1. As an afterthought, it is interesting to see how the blame game plays out, in a spirit of true European diversity.


  2. As I happen to have the Treaty of Nice to hand, these are the provisions.

    Article 201
    If a motion of censure on the activities of the Commission is tabled before it, the European Parliament shall not vote thereon until at least three days after the motion has been tabled and only by open vote. If the motion of censure is carried by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, representing a majority of the Members of the European Parliament, the Members of the Commission shall resign as a body. They shall continue to deal with current business until they are replaced in accordance with Article 214. In this case, the term of office of the Members of the Commission appointed to replace them shall expire on the date on which the term of office of the Members of the Commission obliged to resign as a body would have expired.

    So for that one the EP has to vote to get rid of the lot of them, as proposed in 1999 before they all resigned en masse.

    Article 216
    If any Member of the Commission no longer fulfils the conditions required for the performance of his duties or if he has been guilty of serious misconduct, the Court of Justice may, on application by the
    Council or the Commission, compulsorily retire him.

    So a Head of State or someone in the Commission could bring a case before the Court of Justice.

    That’s about it – formally. However as everything in Brussels works informally it would not be hard for the Council to make a Commission President’s life hell and effectively force a resignation.

  3. What’s the procedure for removing a President? Is it fixed term or resignation, or can the Council do it by majority, or the Parliament by no confidence, or something?

  4. Though I must say, I can understand why Barroso reacts or does not react sometimes.

    It was better to not make McCreevy’s remarks a big deal during the campaign. I decided to mute myself when I learned about McCreevy’s comments, because it was certainly damaging for the campaign. It would have still been somewhat okay to say you have not read the Treaty completely, even though you’d expect that every Commissioner has read the Treaty at least, but it is not okay to – in other words – call people insane if they do so.

    The reaction to the failing of the Treaty in 2005 was a different story, because that was Plan A, it was only the first time the process was interrupted. It is a bigger deal if Plan B goes down the river also.

  5. Jean Quatremer’s blog is excellent, and he has a lot of well founded opinions, but also some headstrong but not necessarily correct ones.

    One significant detail:

    The member states have made the treaties and reforming them their own prerogative. Intergovernmental conferences negotiate between governments and the national parliaments ratify. The Council secretariat coordinates the real work.

    The Commission is, perhaps, allowed some representation or possibility to be associated with the IGC.

    In these circumstances, what could and should Barroso or any other Commission president say or do, when the matters clearly are on member states’ turf.

    Anything other than oblique comments would probably bring out the shotguns to put paid to trespassing.

  6. Ah there it is. It doesn’t show on the home page.

    Anyhoo. I find it impossible to endorse anyone for the job until the case is made for the EC president to be elected.

    At the very least the EP political groups should be able to select their own candidates for the job via party primaries, allowing the prospective candidates to present their manifestos.

    Let’s not forget that it is not the case that Barroso alone has failed the Union. The Council has to take its fair share of the responsibility as well.

    Personally, I would prefer to see Joschka Fischer as EC President any day.

  7. You forgot to place Jean Quatremer’s name at the beginning of your post

  8. Good ridance.

    Pascal Lamy ? Why not ? But former belgium prime minister Verhofstadt would be fine as well.

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