EU backs Barroso for second term on Commission

European Union nations gave their official backing Thursday for Jose Manuel Barroso to serve a second five-year term as European Commission president, the EU's Swedish presidency said.

“We now have a unanimous formal nomination on Jose Manuel Barroso from all the heads of state and government,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

“The (EU) council has now taken its responsibility to finalize the nomination of the commission president,” he said in a statement.

“Hopefully we will be able to, as soon as possible, move Europe to solve the important tasks ahead of us such as the climate and financial crisis.”

The legal decision came after a so-called “silence procedure” over 48 hours during which none of the 27 member nations objected to Barroso’s return, but his nomination still has to be endorsed by the European parliament.

The assembly looks set to vote in September on the former Portuguese premier, who is the only publicly declared candidate for what is currently the EU’s most high-profile post.

But the parliament’s endorsement cannot be taken for granted.

Barroso, 53, has been criticized for his commission’s slow reaction to the financial crisis last year and he has natural political enemies outside of his centre-right grouping, with the Greens openly opposing him.

The European Commission is responsible for drawing up legislation that impacts daily on the lives of almost half a billion Europeans, as well as enforcing the rules already in place.

Its president — who like the commissioners is appointed rather than elected — has significant leverage to influence legislative priorities. The institution will have a budget of 138 billion euros in 2010.

Barroso came to office in July 2004, emerging as a consensus candidate only after preferred nominees were ruled out. He was dismissed by some at the time as a “lowest common denominator” unlikely to ruffle the feathers of big states.

The Greens claim that the same is true today, and that his return would only weaken the EU’s executive body. They say the candidates from last time — Belgian liberal Guy Verhofstadt or Britain’s Chris Patten — would be better.

The parliament is the only EU institution whose members are elected by citizens, and its powers are set to grow if the reforming Lisbon Treaty enters force next year.

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