/ 16 September 2009

Barroso secures new term as head of EU executive

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso secured a second five-year term on Wednesday in a vote at the European Parliament.

Of the assembly’s 736 deputies, 382 voted for the 53-year-old centre-right leader and 219 opposed. The rest abstained or did not take part in the vote in the French city of Strasbourg.

Barroso said after the vote that solidarity, freedom and a stronger Europe would be his priorities. He received applause and a flower.

Barroso, the only candidate, had already been endorsed by the 27 European Union member states and his re-appointment as head of the EU’s executive had been all but certain because his centre-right allies are the main force in the Parliament.

He had required only a simple majority but hoped to win by a wide margin to reinforce his legitimacy and help him push through reforms such as tightening financial regulation to prevent a repeat of the economic crisis.

The commission president represents 27 countries and almost 500-million people.

He will now start choosing the rest of the commission, which includes a representative of each member state under the current rules and has important powers to shape EU laws and policy, controls a large budget and is a powerful regulatory authority.

Barroso, a Portuguese former prime minister who has led the commission since 2004, told the Parliament on Tuesday he hoped to steer Europe out of economic crisis and give it more clout on the world stage.

He said he planned to create a number of new commission posts and that the issue of excessive bonuses at financial firms needed urgent action.

”If you want a strong commission, that stands up sometimes to member states, that stands up to national egoisms, you should give the commission the strong support it takes [to do so],” Barroso said on Tuesday.

”I think it’s a moment of truth for Europe … If we don’t act together, Europe risks being marginalised.”

Socialist, Green and Liberal leaders criticised him and his programme in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, but made clear they were resigned to him winning the vote.

Supporters said Europe needed a leader of Barroso’s stature and experience to help it through the economic crisis and that failure to win a strong mandate would undermine the EU’s work. A new term for Barroso represents continuity, they say.

Opponents said he was slow to tackle the economic crisis and that his programme lacked ambition. They said he had not done enough in his first term to justify a new mandate and had not stood up to the large EU member states often enough.

Big challenges facing Barroso include a referendum in Ireland on the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty on October 2. The Irish rejected the treaty last year and another rejection would block reforms intended to streamline decision-making in the EU and give it more clout, plunging the union into crisis. — Reuters