Brussels — EU leaders must nominate next week a new head of the European Commission, the incumbent and only likely candidate Jose Manuel Barroso insisted Wednesday, rejecting calls to delay the decision.
Barroso, who is the only candidate with any real chance to lead the EU’s executive arm for the next five years, said the decision must be made on the basis of the bloc’s current treaty, and not the new one that could enter force next year.
"It’s up to the council (of EU nations) and the European parliament to decide, of course based on the treaty, and the treaty in force at the moment is the Treaty of Nice," he told reporters.
"The decisions we take in the European Union should always respect the treaty," said Barroso, whose conservative allies were returned as the biggest bloc in the European parliament in the June 4-7 elections.
EU leaders were due to nominate Barroso at their summit in Brussels on June 18-19, but Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled Tuesday that Germany wants the decision put off.
However Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country takes over the EU’s rotating presidency from the Czech Republic on July 1, gave his backing to the former Portuguese premier.
Any delay could hurt Barroso’s chances of returning as head of the commission — an institution of political appointees that is guardian of the EU treaties, proposes legislation and polices competition issues.
It will have an annual budget next year of 138 billion euros.
The EU has almost doubled in size since the Nice Treaty was agreed but it has continued to limp along with the blueprint, awaiting ratification of the Lisbon Treaty of reforms, which pro-Europeans hope will enter force next year.
"The European parliament was elected according to the Nice Treaty," said Barroso, whose current mandate expires at the end of October.
"We cannot take decisions against the treaties, and we cannot take decisions that are based on treaties that have not been approved. It would be undemocratic," he said.
Voters in Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum last year, but they are expected to hold a new plebiscite in October, with surveys suggesting it will pass the second time.