MEPs set to demand action from ‘laid-back’ Barroso

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Series Details Vol.11, No.33, 22.9.05
Publication Date 22/09/2005
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By Martin Banks

Date: 22/09/05

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is expected to be given a rough ride when he appears before European Parliament political group leaders in Strasbourg next week (29 September).

Barroso will face the conference of presidents amid widespread dissatisfaction among MEPs with the performance of the Commission and of its president in particular.

According to senior party insiders, the Commission president can expect a tough grilling on several issues, ranging from his perceived lack of leadership over the EU constitution to his plans to ditch 69 draft laws that are pending in the EU lawmaking machine.

Even the centre-right European People's Party (EPP-ED), Barroso's own party, is unhappy with the Commission president's failure to do more to rescue the EU constitution, which was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands. An EPP-ED source said: "[The president] Hans-Gert Pöttering and most senior members of the group are pushing him to put the constitutional treaty first. Or at least to put it among his priorities, together with economic reforms." The source added the EPP-ED leaders were disappointed with Barroso's refusal to do so.

Pöttering is expected to use the meeting next Thursday to question Barroso about what his plans are to revive the stalled constitution. Pöttering said: "We need to exchange views on the various options currently under discussion. Our aim is to bring the first two parts of the treaty into legal and political reality."

Elmar Brok, foreign affairs committee chairman, is among those EPP-ED members urging the Commission to take a lead during the current 'period of reflection' to see whether the constitution can be revived. "The Commission needs to take leadership at this time," Brok said.

A senior source in the Socialist group said that "the general feeling is that relations between the two institutions have deteriorated and there is a real dissatisfaction with Barroso himself and the performance of his Commission".

Another Socialist group official said that there was a sense of "perplexity about what his [Barroso's] real priorities are".

"We would like to see Barroso moving up a gear. We are concerned that the Commission is a bit absent from the debate on the constitution, on where we go from here and on the financial perspectives. This laid-back attitude is a surprise."

Group leaders will also demand that Barroso provide more details of the Commission's deregulation campaign, including proposals to scrap 69 pending laws.

This move is likely to be criticised by the Socialists and the Greens.

A Greens/EFA spokesman said: "We warned that the Barroso Commission would favour business over environmental and health interests and our worst fears are likely to come true with the scrapping of social protection laws."

Socialist leader Martin Schulz is also likely to question Barroso over recent comments made by Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner. Kroes sparked controversy when she publicly stated her support for the Christian Democrat candidate Angela Merkel in last weekend's German elections. This was not well received in Socialist circles.

Article anticipates a meeting between the European Parliament's Conference of Presidents, comprising the chairs of the political groups and the President of the European Parliament, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, on 29 September 2005. Author suggests that this meeting came amid widespread dissatisfaction among MEPs with the performance of the European Commission and of its President in particular.

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