European Commission: A fanfare-free departure for Barroso

31 October 2014
VoxEurop
Libération

French newspaper Libération takes a frank and less-than-flattering look at José Manuel Barroso’s double mandate at the head of the European Commission.

Jean Quatremer, the paper’s correspondent in Brussels, notes Barroso’s mandate began in 2005 “with the French and Dutch rejecting the European Constitution” and ended “with [anti-immigration Eurosceptic party] the National Front taking 25 per cent of the vote in France [during May’s European elections] and Eurosceptic parties mushrooming” across the continent.

“Very few” are sorry to see him go, writes the paper, accusing Barroso, “who said from 2004 he was at the service of member states” for failing to propose what was needed to “politically reinforce Europe”.

For the paper, Barroso’s “stubbornness to defend the Bolkenstein Directive to the end” gives him a “not inconsiderable responsibility” for the French “no” vote in the 2005 referendum on the Constitution and for weakening the Union overall. Furthermore, when Barroso told the European Parliament that he —

regretted the eurozone’s lack of preparedness for the public debt crisis, he forgot he had been a strong proponent for deregulation.

The euro crisis saw the Commission turing into “a simple secretariat of the Member States” in which Barroso —

often pulled back even before pushing forward. We’re still waiting on his proposal of more than a year ago to modify the treaties to reinforce the Union and democratise its functions.

In addition to appearing even more timid than European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Barroso was neither capable of building trust among heads of state and government, nor was he —

at the origin of the extraordinary evolution of the Union of recent years. Even the banking union, an unprecedented federal move launched in June 2012, was not an idea of the Commission.

As for the austerity measures imposed on peripheral states of the eurozone, the Commission —

showed proof of a total absence of political sense, with Barroso not even daring to directly face public opinion in the countries under the most pressure to slash there budgets.

Finally, at the end of a term that went on for “too long”, Barroso —

began negotiations in 2013 for the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement with the United States in the midst of economic crisis and as public opinion had more and more doubts about the benefits of globalisation. He could not have handed a better argument to the Eurosceptics a year ahead of the European elections.