EU commission chief stands for second mandate

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The bid by the former Portuguese prime minister swiftly received the endorsement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Brussels -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso accepted Tuesday to stand for a second five-year term, hot on the heels of victory by the conservatives in weekend EU elections.

The bid by the former Portuguese prime minister, a member of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) grouping, swiftly received the endorsement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, though differences remain over when he should be formally nominated to the post.

Barroso said he had agreed to be candidate following a request from the European Union presidency.

"I have agreed to this request," he told reporters, after talks in Brussels with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of the month.

Fischer then flew on to Berlin for talks with Merkel on Barroso's candidacy, before speaking with the rest of the EU's 27 leaders, either in person in their capitals or by telephone.

"We already said that Mr Barroso has our support -- at least from my side," Merkel told reporters after her talks with Fischer.

Barroso has long coveted a new mandate after his term expires in late October but, leaving the door open should he be rejected, he vowed to take the job only if nations and the EU parliament endorsed his programme for the future.

"This acceptance pre-supposes that the European Council (representing the member states) and European parliament embrace the ambitious programme that I will propose for Europe for the next five years," he said.

"I believe that in time of (economic) crisis, we need a strong commission and a strong European Union," said Barroso, who has no real rival for the post. "We need ambition."

The European Commission is the EU's unelected executive arm. It is guardian of the bloc's treaties, proposes legislation and polices competition issues, and will have an annual budget next year of 138 billion euros.

Many countries want Barroso's candidacy to be endorsed by EU leaders at a June 18-19 summit in Brussels, but France and Germany would prefer his nomination to be announced only after the new Lisbon Treaty of reforms has been ratified.

Merkel did not discuss the timeframe at the news conference with Fischer.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, visiting Brussels, was unequivocal.

"I favour that we give the president a full mandate now directly," he said.

"We've got now a clear answer from the votes, with a centre-right dominance in the European parliament."

Reinfeldt, whose country will assume the rotating EU presidency from the Czechs next month, warned that any delay "would add uncertainty. Who to call? Who to ask? Who's the driving force in Europe?"

Irish voters, who rejected the treaty last year, are set to vote again -- and probably approve it -- in October.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has had a mixed relationship with Barroso, lavishing praise on his commission's work, then complaining loudly after the commission warned Paris over proposals to bail out its ailing auto industry.

Barroso said Tuesday that he wanted endorsement of the executive's "ambitious financial supervision package", as well as its proposals on employment.

He will also seek backing at next week's EU summit "on how to work with international partners to get an ambitious package on fighting climate change in the Copenhagen conference."

Meanwhile the European Commission revised the official, and still provisional, results of four days of polling across Europe for the European parliament.

The EPP -- the umbrella grouping of national conservative parties -- maintained its status as the largest bloc with 263 seats in the 736-seat chamber.

Next came the social democrats with 162 seats, as left-leaning parties performed badly, followed by the liberals with 80.

Turnout was a record low 43.1 percent of the 288 million voters.


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