Barroso wins second term as EU commission chief 

17th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Jose Manuel Barroso said the vote had bolstered his status as the head of one of the EU's three main institutions, and he promised to forge ahead with what he calls his "ambitious programme for Europe."

Strasbourg -- The European parliament on Wednesday gave Jose Manuel Barroso a second five year term as president of the powerful European Commission, ending months of wrangling over the EU's top job.

The conservative former Portuguese premier was approved in a vote of 382 to 219, from among the 718 lawmakers who took part in the secret ballot in Strasbourg. There were 117 abstentions.

The comfortable majority means Barroso's term cannot be challenged even if the new Lisbon Treaty of EU reforms comes into effect next year as expected.

As president of the European Union's executive arm, he is in charge of the Brussels bureaucracy that draws up legislation which impacts on the lives of about half a billion Europeans.

The president has significant leverage to influence legislative priorities of the commission which next year will have a budget of 138 billion euros (200 billion dollars).

Barroso said the vote had bolstered his status as the head of one of the EU's three main institutions, and he promised to forge ahead with what he calls his "ambitious programme for Europe."

"Yes. I now think that I have reinforced authority. That's democracy," he told reporters. "The commission will have the power to challenge all those who today believe they can go it alone."

Over the last five years, "I have done it my way," he said, and in the future "I will do it my way."

Looking ahead, he listed the EU's biggest challenges as Ireland's referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on October 2 -- a "no" vote would be a major blow -- as well as the meeting of G20 powers this month in the United States and the international climate summit in December.

He said he would not be distracted by the job of forming the next European Commission, insisting that this cannot happen until the future of the treaty -- meant to vastly improve EU decision-making -- is clear.

"The designation of the commissioners will take place once there is clarity on the treaty," he said. "We have to wait for the Irish to vote."

Barroso thanked lawmakers who backed him, after weeks in which they had grilled him over his future plans and criticised his past handling of major challenges, such as the financial and economic crises.

He had already received unanimous support from EU heads of state and government in the 27 member countries. The EU president and its commissioners are nominated rather than elected but they need approval from the parliament.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, welcomed the news.

"This gives us the stability needed for fully focusing on important challenges such as the economic crisis and climate change. It is also important for the continuing preparations for a new commission," he said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed it as "a great result."

"I have long said that he is the right man for the job," Brown said in a statement.

"Under his leadership, the European Commission and Europe as a whole will continue to tackle the issues that matter to Europeans: jobs and growth, and the global challenges of security, poverty and climate change."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a past critic of Barroso said: "I am happy that we have been given the opportunity to further deepen our cooperation, to continue the work done during the French presidency (of the EU), to expand the European project in the face of the economic and financial crisis and the challenges linked to globalisation."

In the end, Barroso was the only publicly nominated candidate.

Support from the 53-year-old politician's conservative brethren was never in question, but the Socialist bloc, the second largest in the European parliament, refused to back him.

The Greens had opposed him as a lackey of the leaders of the 27 member states and refused to give their vote.

The eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) bloc, some of whose 54 members are shunned by mainstream parties, trumpeted their role in keeping Barroso in office.

Catherine Marciano/AFP/Expatica

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