Jose-Manuel Barrosso

Labour Party

Barroso Getting His Way

We now have the result of the much vaunted Barosso vote.  The European Parliament has just endorsed Mr B as Presient of the European Commission by an absolute majority as follows:  for 382, against 219 and 117 abstentions.  Although it was a secret ballot, I am reliable informed that the British Conservatives voted for Mr Barosso.  To me this seems bizarre in the extreme and very inconsistent in the light of the post below on this blog.  Barosso is very strong on European integration and stated his desire for progress on this issue in his acceptance speech, all of which is haedly compatible with the Tories’ first leaving the EPP on the grounds that it is too integrationist and then expelling Edward McMillan Scott.

It is also safe to say that both the EPP and the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) Groups supported Barosso as did some other individuals and national delegations.  As far as I could see from the way they indicated in the Chamber , UKIP voted against Barosso, probably because they take the simplistic line that since they are anti-EU they vote against everything in the European Parliament.  

I need to say first of all that this is not the result the Socialists and Democrats were hoping for.  While the S&D Group knew Barosso would get a majority (he was after all the only candidate), many Group members including the Group Leader Martin Schulz thought this could be kept to a simple rather than an absolute majority.  The S & D strategy was always to get concessions on the social agenda out of Barosso in return for the Group abstaining in the vote.   I have to say I was never sure about this mainly because there would never be any real guarantees that Barosso would deliver on promises made.  It also rather depended on Mr B getting a much smaller majority than is now the case.  After all, why should someone who has had such a ringing endorsement do other than follow his own agenda?  Game, set and match to Barosso as far as I can see.

Both the fact that Barosso was the only candidate put forward by the European Council and that  it will be his second five year term raise serious issues.  Many people view the European Commission as an undemocratic body as Commissioners are appointed by Member State Governments (albeit subject to European Parliament approval).  There are no elections involved.  For someone then to serve five years and then probably another five years on top of that smacks of a stitch up pandering to the worst of the EU.

I believe the Barosso saga will work directly against the EU’s stated aim to bring Europe closer to the citizens.  There is at present no meaningful democratic accountabilty in regard to the European Commission.  Stitching up the post of President for the same person for ten years only reinforces the anti-democratic and out of touch feeling which even those of us in Europe sometimes feel.  As we all know, this  feeling is more apparentin Britain than almost anywhere else in the EU.  Back room deals do nothing to improve the image of the EU.


Democracy, electoral reform, Euro Election, european parliament

We had another meeting of the S&D Group this week.  You may not be surprised to know that the decision on the Commission President, which I reported on a few days ago, will be postponed until after the summer recess.  I must say I never doubted that it would be, though the leadership of the S&D Group is hailing this a a “massive victory” to quote President Martin Schulz.

President Martin Schulz

President Martin Schulz

Martin Schulz has, however, asked that there is some element of nascent democracy in the process, in that he wants the President of the Commission designate (designate in that there is no other candidate) , Jose Manuel Barosso, to appear at each of the political groups in the European Parliament with his manifesto for the next five years.  Groups can then agree his nomination if they find him convincing.  This strikes me as a good idea and is not unlike the “confirmation” hearings currently held by European Parliament Committees regarding individual Commissioners.

 But the Swedish Presidency do not agree with even this modicum of involvement by the European Parliament and the centre-right Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, wants to formalise the appointment of Commission President himself.  He is even intending to write to all heads of government in the EU to ask them to support Barosso.  It is beginning ot look as if this important decision will be taken by post rather than at a summit meeting.

None of this is good news for the EU and European democracy.  I can’t believe it would hurt to have a more open process, especially as there is only one name in the field.


Comment is Free, Guardian

On Tuesday I posted a link to a piece I wrote for the Guardian “Comment is Free” online section.

I received a number of responses, and I would just like to respond to a few things:

I have no problem with what people believe as long as they do not harm others. We should all respect each other, women and men, old and young, gay and straight, those with disabilities and the able bodied, black and white. We are, after all, human beings living on the same planet.

I believe democracy, and therefore other people, are harmed when MPs allow their religious faith rather than the principles of the party they represent to influence their votes in Parliament.