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.