I’ve been hammering on and on at the PES and the issue of why socialists have not been able to nominate a candidate for President of the Commission to follow Barroso when the Portuguese’s term of office ends 31st October this year. The story behind all of this gets immensely complex – I’m going to try to set the record straight as far as I see it.
Essentially there is a disagreement between the Party of European Socialists, headed up by party president Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, and 3 of the PES member parties. Those 3 parties, and their party leaders, namely Socrates in Portugal, Zapatero in Spain and Brown in the UK, are quite happy with Barroso being re-nominated as President of the Commission as this re-nomination suits their own petty national interests, and also – especially for the UK – the fact that Barroso is weak also helps his cause.
In the opposite camp are MEPs in the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, and leaders of some of Europe’s social democrat parties that are out of power nationally. For them they need a strong message for the election campaigns on why a social europe is possible and desirable, and accomplishing that with Barroso in place is not going to be easy. So hence we have Rasmussen in an interview in Le Monde stating “Si une autre majorité se dégage, M. Barroso ne pourra pas être reconduit“, and he also stated in Financial Times Deutschland “Wir wollen nach der Europaparlamentswahl zusammen mit anderen Parteien einen anderen Kommissionspräsidenten wählen“.
So essentially if you vote for a PES member party at the EP elections in June you’ll get MEPs that will not back Barroso (good) but do not know who they will back (bad) and say they will have to cooperate with other parties on that (confusing).
So why not put up a candidate anyway? Well, Rasmussen might want to be that person, but with his namesake now NATO General Secretary, and also with Denmark outside Schengen and the Euro is he appropriate? His left wing rival in Brussels, Martin Schulz, is a tub-thumping bully, not someone with the nous or ability to bring people together. The best social democrat – Pascal Lamy – hence seldom even features in the debate about the nomination of a candidate.
Then Europe’s politicians wonder why the population does not understand what’s going on in Brussels, and how the process of European ‘democracy’ seems opaque and confusing. I rest my case.
Andy, where did Rasmussen say that? Do you have that in written?
Yesterday Rasmussen said they did have a candidate, but he wouldn’t name them. Don’t you just love it.
Thanks for the link, Brusselsblogger. However, for me it doesn’t seem to advance things very much. There is still too much scope for “wheeling and dealing” behind closed doors.
What is there to stop us, ordinary electors, from having two ballot papers at the EU election: one for EMPs, another for EU President?
At present, we are allowed (ie are directed/restricted by the media) to very little information on candidates, manifestos, etc. If someone agrees to have their name put forward for election as EU President – however elected – they must be expect that they will need to explain how they would see their role, and would be expected to fight to have their message put over more directly to us. We would pay their salary, so we would want to know what our money was buying.
We need more than an anti-Barroso campaign, we need a campaign for more democracy.
@Peter – sorry, should have made it clear: from a personal point of view I have no problem with 2 danes, or 2 people of whatever nationality. I nevertheless think that the 2 Danes argument will be cited by governments against Poul Nyrup.
Jon, are your arguments about Rasmussen not old school diplomatic reasoning? Who cares if another Dane is NATO secretary general and if Denmark is in the Euro? If the EU should ever become a true political building, these questions should not matter anymore at all. Just personal competence. Peace.
Interesting in this context is Jean Luc Dehaene’s report which has been approved in the EP on Thursday: http://euobserver.com/18/28091
It calls for more involvement of the European Parliament when chosing the future Commission president. Something that is foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty. The report is non-binding.
The PES has offered lame distractions by requiring a social agenda from Barroso. They have decided to lose the election by not putting forward their own candidate, so the willingness to field a candidate after the European elections is a lame excuse for doing nothing.
But the PES is not alone in its uselessness. The Liberals and the Greens are as vapid.
I have seen no signs of enthusiasm from EPP activists for the official endorsement of Barroso by the congress of the EPP parties, in line with the wishes of heads of state or government.