Barroso Commission

Barroso Commission

The Barroso Commission is the European Commission that has been in office since 22 November 2004 and is due to serve until 31 October 2009. Its president is José Manuel Barroso, who presides over 26 other commissioners (one from each state).

Barroso was at first seen as the lowest common denominator by outside commentators, but his proposed team of Commissioners earned him some respect before triggering a crisis when the European Parliament objected to some of his team, forcing a reshuffle. In 2007 the Commission gained two new members when Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union.

Barroso's handling of his office has been markedly more Presidential than his predecessors. During his term the Commission has passed major legislation including the REACH and 'Bolkestein' Directives. Commissioners have also become more political and the civil service in the Commission more economically liberal.


Barroso was nominated as President and approved by Parliament in July 2004. However his proposed Commission met with opposition from the Parliament, notably concerning Rocco Buttiglione and his conservative comments which were seen as incompatible with his role as European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security. The opposition plunged the EU into a minor crisis before Barroso conceded to the Parliament and reshuffled his team, removing Buttiglione, and his Commission took office on 22 November 2004. The Commission was joined in 2007 by two further Commissioners when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU.

Presidential candidates

The Prodi Commission was due to end its mandate at the end of October 2004, so following the 2004 elections candidates for Commission President began to be considered. There was strong backing for Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (EDLR) from Ireland, France and Germany who saw him as a "convinced European and also a fighter".cite web|title=Choosing a New EU Commission President|date=2004-06-04|publisher=Deutsche Welle|url=,,1237192,00.html|accessdate=2007-11-26] However the federalist was opposed by Spain the United Kingdom, Italy and Poland due to his vocal opposition to the Iraq War and the inclusion of God in the European Constitution.cite web|title=Two more candidates for Commission President|date=2004-06-18|publisher=EPHA|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (AEN) was also a popular candidate but did not wish to take up the job.cite web|title=Commission president: Key candidates|date=2004-06-27|publisher=BBC News|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

Due to the victory of the European People's Party in the previous election, EPP parties were keen to get one of their members into the post, including Luxembourgian Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP), who refused, and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel (EPP), who was in a coalition with a right wing party which discredited him as a candidate to some governments.

A number of Commissioners were also touted, notably Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture (Austria, EPP), Antonio Vitorino, Commissioner for JHA (Portugal, PES), Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations (UK, ED), Michel Barnier, and Commissioner for Regional Policy (France, EPP).

Other candidates were High Representative Javier Solana (Spain, PES) and President of the Parliament Pat Cox (Ireland, ELDR) however both were light candidates. However Barroso emerged as a leading candidate despite his support for the Iraq War and being seen as the lowest common denominator following objections to other candidates. The Parliament approved Barroso as President on 22 July 2004 by 413 votes to 215 (44 abstentions) with most of his support coming from the EPP-ED group. He did however earn praise for his later choice of candidates.cite web|title=MEPs confirm new Brussels chief|date=2004-07-22|publisher=BBC News|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] cite web|title=The European Commission's new president has shown bold political judgement|date=2004-08-13|publisher=The Independent|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

Commissioner hearings

Barroso rejected the idea of a "supercommissioner" and desired 1/3 of the Commission to be women and that the most powerful portfolios should be handed to those most capable, not those from larger states. His sharing out of jobs between the larger and smaller states equally earned him some early praise. Candidates were proposed by national governments for each of the Commissioners and Parliament held hearings for them, to determine their suitability, between 27 September and 11 October of that year. [cite web|title=Election of the European Commission|date=2004-10-22|publisher=European Parliament|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

During the hearings, members found fault in a number of Commissioners. Committees questioned the sutibility of Ingrida Udre (Taxation and Customs Union), László Kovács (Energy), Neelie Kroes (Competition) and Mariann Fischer-Boel (Agriculture). However the most controversial was Rocco Buttiglione as European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security due to his conservative comments (on women's position in marriage and that homosexuality was a sin) which, in the eyes of some MEPs, made him unsuitable for a job securing civil rights in the EUcite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=EU deputies not swayed on Buttiglione : Barroso proposals fail to quell revolt|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2004-10-22|accessdate = 2007-11-23] leading to the civil rights committee to be the first committee to vote down an incoming Commissioner.cite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=Buttiglione affair highlights evolving role of Parliament : Questions arise on democracy at the EU|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2004-10-18|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

The Socialists were the most vocal critics of Barroso and his proposed Commission, while the People's Party backed the Commission with the liberals split. Barroso attempted to offer small concessions to Parliament but they were not accepted as the Socialists made clear they would vote down the Commission as it stood, leaving the divided liberals holding the balance of whether the Barroso Commission would be the first Commission in EU history to rejected by Parliament. The People's Party demanded that if Buttiglione were to go, then a Socialist commissioner must also be sacrificed for balance.cite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=Socialists vow to oppose incoming team : Barroso optimistic on commission vote|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2004-10-26|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

Barroso eventually gave in and withdrew his proposed college of Commissioners and, following three weeks which left Prodi continuing as a caretaker, proposed a new line up. There were three changes to help his dented authority and win the support of Parliament: Buttiglione had been withdrawn by Italy and replaced by foreign minister Franco Frattini, László Kovács was moved from Energy to Taxation and Ingrida Udre was withdrawn and replaced by Andris Piebalgs who took over the now vacant post of Energy.cite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=EU Parliament likely to accept commission : Barroso set to win with new team|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2004-11-17|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

However a further issue concerning Jacques Barrot was raised by Independence/Democracy co-leader Nigel Farage MEP. Barrot, a returning Commissioner nominated as a Vice President with the Transport portfolio, had received a suspended prison sentence in 2000 in relation to a funding scandal involving his political party. He subsequently received a Presidential amnesty from then-French President Jacques Chirac and Barroso was unaware of the conviction till it was raised by Parliament. Despite this, Barroso stood by Barrot stating he was fit for office.cite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=Questions arise over another EU commissioner|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2004-11-17|accessdate = 2007-11-20] Farage had also made allegations against Vice President Siim Kallas, stating he had a criminal record in fraud. However this proved false, based on an inaccurate newspaper article, and an apology was published.cite web|title=Siim Kallas – An apology & correction|publisher=United Kingdom Independence Party|url=|date=2004-03-31|accessdate = 2007-11-20]

Despite this, the Commission was approved on 18 November 2004, 449 votes in favour, 149 against and 82 abstentions, after Barroso gained the support of all three major parties and they took office on 22 November, three weeks after they were due to.cite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=MEPs approve revamped Commission|publisher=BBC News|url=|date=2004-11-19|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

2007 enlargement

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007 with each being granted a single Commissioner, increasing the college of Commissioners to 27 members. Both new Commissioners were approved by the Parliament on 12 December 2007.cite web|title=Bulgarian, Romanian EU commissioners approved|publisher=Reuters|url=|date=2006-12-12|accessdate = 2007-11-23] Meglena Kuneva was proposed by Bulgaria and was assigned the Consumer Protection portfolio, previously part of the joint Health & Consumer Protection portfolio. She was welcomed by Parliament with the People's Party and Socialists being impressed by her aims and attitude.cite web|title=Kuneva to boost consumer confidence in business |publisher=EurActiv|url=|date=2006-12-13|accessdate = 2007-11-23] Kuneva with 583 votes "in favour", 21 votes "against" and 28 votes "abstentions".

Romania originally proposed Senator Varujan Vosganian, however he quickly met with opposition from Socialists and the Commission itself due to his far right views and having no experience of the EU or profile outside Romania. That nomination was replaced by Leonard Orban who was given the portfolio of Multilingualism, previously part of Education, Training & Culture.cite web|title=EU's Barroso backs Romania's nominee for commissioner|publisher=EU Business|url=|date=2006-10-30|accessdate = 2007-11-23] This however was met a cool reception for being such a slim portfolio. Socialist leader Martin Schulz MEP suggested it should instead focus on ethnic minorities but this was rejected by Barroso.cite web|title=Socialists criticise new commissioner’s portfolio|publisher=EurActiv|url=|date=2007-05-23|accessdate = 2007-11-23] Orban was approved by Parliament with 595 votes in favour, 16 against and 29 abstentions.

Towards a second term

In March 2008, Commissioner Kyprianou left the Commission following presidential elections in Cyprus to become his home country's new foreign minister. He was replaced by Androula Vassiliou who was approved by Parliament on 9 April.cite web|last=Latham|first=Mark|title=Parliament backs Vassiliou as health commissioner|url=|publisher=European Voice|date=2008-04-10|accessdate = 2008-04-15] Commissioner's leaving early towards the end of their mandate is common, as they seek to secure their next job, but can undermine the Commission as a whole.cite web|last=Mahony|first=Honor|title=EU commission musical chairs begins in Brussels|publisher=EU Observer|url=|date=2008-03-04|accessdate = 2008-03-05]

Kyprianou was followed by Franco Frattini on 23 April 2008 following elections in Italy when he was recalled to serve as foreign minister of Italy. Frattini's responsibilities were handed to Barrot (who held them in addition to his existing transport duties) until a replacement for Frattini could be found.cite web|last=Igra|first=Daniel|title=Berlusconi victory confirms Frattini's departure|url=|publisher=European Voice|date=2008-04-15|accessdate = 2008-04-15] In light of Parliament's opposition in 2004 when Buttiglione was deemed inappropriate for the justice portfolio, when Antonio Tajani MEP (another right wing candidate) was put forward to replace Frattini, President Barroso handed him Barrot's transport portfolio, leaving Barrot to continue with the justice portfolio for continuity and to ensure Parliament would back Tajani in such as non-sensitive position as Transport (but one still of interest to Italy due to problems with Alitalia). [Kubosova, Lucia (2008-04-23) [ Barroso shifts EU commission jobs between France and Italy] , EU Observer] Parliament approved Tajani on 18 June 2008 with a vote of 507 to 53 (64 abstentions). [ [ Round-up of Tajani and Barrot hearings] European Parliament 2008-06-18] Peter Mandelson then left in October 2008 to return to national politics as Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, being replaced by Baroness Ashton. [Phillips, Leigh (3 October 2008) [ Trade commissioner Mandelson resigns] , EU Observer]

In 2008, Barroso has been steadily winning support from leaders for a second term as President, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi have both declared their support for Barroso, though Barroso himself has stated it is up to the political parties in Parliament, and on 19 July 2008 Barroso stated for the first time that he was seeking a second term. (See "President" section below for details).

Legislation and actions

There have been a number of high profile pieces of legislation, inherited from Prodi and initiated by the President Commission. In most cases Barroso has been keep to connect himself to them rather than leave it to individual commissioners. The Commission's work includes the opening up of the EU's services sector with the 'Bolkestein' Directive and the largest piece of legislation thus far, the REACH directive. Through its work in getting agreement on such legislation, it has regained some respect as a neutral player previously lost in fighting with member states.cite web|title=Interview with European Commission Secretary-General Catherine Day |publisher=EurActiv|url=|date=2007-06-08|accessdate=2007-11-23]


One legislative package inherited from the Prodi Commission was the Directive on services in the internal market, commonly known as the 'Bolkestein Directive', which sought to liberalise the EU's services sector which accounts for two thirds of the EU's economy. Barroso's Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, put forward a text following far reaching amendments proposed by Parliament and protests from trade unions.cite web|title=EU ministers reach deal on controversial services directive|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2006-05-31|accessdate=2007-11-23]

An agreement was finally reached in May 2007 which excluded sectors such as social care, healthcare, gambling, port services, television media and security services among others. McCreevy also dropped the proposed country of origin principle where a company could operate in another EU country under their home state's labour rules.


One piece of legislation notably managed to win wide-spread public support, the Regulation on roaming charges within the European Union from Information Society & Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. The legislation capped roaming charges for calls made from a mobile phone being used in an EU member state other than its own, which were seen as disproportionally high by the Commission. It was approved despite opposition from mobile phone operators, however the Socialists in Parliament had wanted more concessions from industry.cite web|last=Laitner|first=Sarah|coauthors=Tobias Buck|title=EU agrees to slash ‘roaming’ charges|publisher=Financial Times|url=,Authorised=false.html?|date=2007-05-16|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

Reding has seen the legislation as a success and stated that, despite initial fears, there have not been price rises on domestic calls as a result of the caps. However she noted that operators had instead tried to "trick" users to switching to more expensive tariffs or using more expensive options such as texting which was not covered by the legislation.cite web|last=Banks|first=Martin|title=EU phone users 'still not getting a fair deal||url=|date=2007-11-20|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

Other policy

The REACH directive was another major piece of legislation agreed in 2006 after three years of negotiations. The directive aims to regulate the use of over 30,000 chemicals used in the EU (which produces 28% of the worlds chemicals) for risks to the environmental or human health. The Commission's proposals were watered down by Parliament who were seen by some environmental groups as watering down the proposals.cite web|title=Europe poised to put tough chemical laws in place|publisher=New Scientist|url=|date=2006-12-01|accessdate = 2007-11-23] The directive was the largest single piece of legislation ever produced by the Commission and is expected to set the standards for the rest of the world.cite web|title=Parliament and Council finally REACH agreement on chemicals legislation|publisher=ALDE website|url=|date=2006-11-30|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

10 January 2007 marked the publication of the Commission's first venture into an EU energy policy, which had an emphasis on fighting climate change with a binding target of a 20% cut in greenhouse gases by 2020. The policy also aimed for a true common energy market, more low-carbon energy and through this, greater energy independence from oil exporters such as Russia.cite web|title=EU plans 'industrial revolution'|publisher=BBC News|url=|date=2007-01-10|accessdate = 2007-11-23]

In a case inherited from the Prodi Commission, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes had engaged in a drawn out case against Microsoft concerning abuse of its dominant market position. Microsoft refused to comply with the Commissions demands and received a 497 million euro fine, the largest imposed by the Commission on a single company. In this case, European Union v. Microsoft, Microsoft failed to win its appeal at the European Court of Justice in 2007 and agreed to co-operate with the Commission.cite web|title=Microsoft drops appeals in EU antitrust case|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|date=2006-10-24|accessdate = 2007-11-23]


The Barroso Commission is led by President José Manuel Barroso and consists of 26 other Commissioners (24 between 2004 and 2007). There is one member from each European Union member state, eight are women and members are drawn primarily from the three major European political parties, Barroso himself being from the European People's Party. There are five Vice Presidents and the most senior is Margot Wallström.


The President is the former Prime Minister of Portugal; José Manuel Barroso. He took over from former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi who served from 1999 (Prodi Commission). He is a member of the European People's Party and was appointed by the European Council in June 2004 in response to the victory of the EPP-ED in the 2004 European elections. Some of Barroso's stated aims are to tackle voter apathy and euroscepticism, visible during those elections, to work with the United States and to develop a "defence identity."cite web|last=Fuller|first=Thomas|title=Barroso insists he will control portfolios : More women sought as EU commissioners|date=2004-06-23|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

Barroso comes from a small integrationist state and had become unpopular due to his economic policies. His government had backed the United States in the Iraq war. The leader of the socialist group, Martin Schulz, criticised him for his pro- war stance, optimised by his organisation of the Azores summit. Despite such opposition, the European Parliament approved him as President by 413, although there were difficulties over his choice of Commissioners (see below).

He has earned some criticism due to his leadership of the expanded Commission — with it being notably more Presidential than his predecessors.cite web|last=|first=|title=EU commission sees civil servants' power grow|date=2007-02-22|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] Barroso had unusually been linked with all the Commission's major initiatives, for example those on energy and climate change, rather than the particular Commissioner responsible.cite web|last=Mahony|first=Honor|title=Barroso considered resigning as commission chief|date=2007-11-22|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] He also had a number of "pet projects" such as the Galileo positioning system and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. [cite web|last=Kubosova|first=Lucia|title=EU approves extra funds for Galileo and technology institute|date=2007-11-26|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

He had also been accused of acting in favour of larger states in order to secure a desired second term in office.cite web|last=Buck|first=Tobias|coauthors=George Parker|title=Barroso accused of currying favour with biggest states|date=2006-12-22|publisher=Financial Times|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] [cite web|last=|first=|title=European politics to get more political|date=2007-06-27|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] This has gone so far as to overrule Commissioner McCreevy (internal market commissioner) from overhauling artists' levies after pressure from France, despite Barroso himself being an economic liberal.cite web|last=Mahony|first=Honor|coauthors=Lucia Kubosova|title=Commissioners to plan next EU projects|date=2007-09-10|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] In July 2008 he succeeded in winning the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Parliament President Hans-Gert Poetteringcite web|last=Mahony|first=Honor|title=Sarkozy backs Barroso for second go as EU commission president|date=2008-07-10|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2008-07-10] and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.cite web|last=|first=|title=Berlusconi backs Barroso to head EU Commission again|date=2008-07-09|publisher=AFP|url=|accessdate=2008-07-16] However he has stated it is up to the parties in Parliament to decide and that despite his attempts for re-election being well known, he never publicly declared this intention until an interview on 19 July 2008. He further stated he felt honoured and privileged" to serve as president.cite web|last=Mahony|first=Honor|title=Barroso admits he wants to be EU commission president for a second time|date=2008-07-19|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2008-07-21] In fact, he did consider resigning as President during the talks on the Treaty of Lisbon, notably due to notorious disagreements between Germany and Poland, but considered to do so would be "too theatrical".


Member states appoint one Commissioner each (including the President). It is the first Commission where larger member-states do not have two Commissioners and the first full Commission following the 2004 enlargement. From 2004 there were 25 members, raising to 27 from 2007. There are 9 women in the college as of 3 March 2008 and no ethnic minorities,cite web|title=The members of the Barroso Commission (2004-2009)|publisher=European Commission|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] Barroso had stated he wished for more women in his Commission, than in previous Commissions, and he would use his influence over national capitals to gain this. Most Commissioners (20) were born in the 1940s and 1950s with the youngest member being Olli Rehn (b. 1962) and the oldest being Jacques Barrot (b. 1937).

Most members are former ministers with links to the Union, for example being Foreign Minister, Minister for European Affairs or represented their country in accession talks or at the European Convention. In addition to Barroso both Siim Kallas and Vladimír Špidla are former Prime Ministers. Viviane Reding is the only Commissioner with a background in the European Parliament.

Politically they come from each of the major political parties; the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (8), the European People's Party (8) and the Party of European Socialists (6). In addition there are 4 Independents and one member of the Alliance for Europe of the Nations. Barroso had been complimented for balancing the portfolios between countries, such as between small and large, new and old, and pro- and anti- (Iraq) war [cite web|title=BM: The new Commission – some initial thoughts|date=2004|publisher=BM Brussels|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] . Before 2007 there were only 7 Liberals and 3 Independents.


[ 6 ] Left leaning (PES) - [ 8 ] Centre (ELDR) - [ 8 ] Right leaning (EPP/AEN) - [ 4 ] Independent

* = Party did not belong to a European political party, but sat with the ALDE group in Parliament.

Civil Service

The Secretary-General for this term was Catherine Day, appointed in 2005. She was the first woman to hold the post and took over from David O'Sullivan. Early favorite François Lamoureux, previously in charge of Transport, had health problems and his being infirm was seen as a political blow to France and a final break from the Delors era, instead giving the Commission a more liberal outlook. Commissioner Kallas stressed the appointments were on merit, resisting pressure from national capitals.cite web|last=Bowley|first=Graham|title=First woman is appointed as head of EU civil service|date=2005-11-10|publisher=International Herald Tribune|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

Ms. Day was part of a vast reshuffle of Commission officials by the President after he came to power. The reshuffle was welcomed by the right-wing as the new director-generals, including Ms. Day, were liberal reformers, many British and German. A move which did not go down well with France, symbolic of their loss of influence, who were opposed to Ms. Day due to her liberal economic reforms. Indeed, Ms. Day became very notable in the Commission for her opposition to French state aid policies.cite web|last=Ruskin|first=Jay|title=Inside Brussels" Right turn ahead|date=2005-11-10|publisher=Financial Times|url=,dwp_uuid=d4f2ab60-c98e-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html|accessdate=2007-11-26 (subscription only, free version available [ here] )]

Concern has been expressed by Commissioners such as Günter Verheugen in regards to overlap of mandates and fractionalisation of the Commission's Directorates-General, leading to "turf-wars" and a lack of coordination. [cite web|title=Interview with Günter Verheugen, vice-president and commissioner for enterprise and industry|date=2005-08-02|publisher=EurActiv|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] A great deal of the Commission's effort is expended in this in-fighting and weaker Commissioners, such as Verheugen, have not been able to gain sufficient control over their department. [cite web|last=Amies|first=Nick|title=Former EU Mandarin Spills the Beans on Commission Intrigue|date=2007-09-21|publisher=Deutsche Welle|url=,2144,2790009,00.html|accessdate=2007-11-26]


During Barroso's tenure, the Commission has seen a general increase in the politicisation of its members. Although members are supposed to remain above national politics, members have been involved in national elections or backed national candidates. For example Commissioner Michel participated in the 2007 Belgian elections [cite web|title=EU development commissioner to take unpaid leave|date=2007|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] while Commissioner Kroes backed Angela Merkel in the 2005 German elections and Vice President Wallstrom backed Ségolène Royal in the 2007 French elections. [cite web|title=EU commissioner backs Royal in French election|date=2007|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] .

Michel claimed that politicisation of this manner is part of reconnecting the Union with its citizens and Wallström defended it claiming that the EU has to get more political and controversial as being a vital role in communicating the Commission. [cite web|title=Brussels struggles with communication policy|date=2007-05-09|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26] Wallström presented plans to give greater prominence to European political parties ahead of the 2009 elections and give the parties the ability to run with candidates for Commission President. If he gains backing, Barroso may run as the People's Party candidate in 2009.cite web|title=European politics to get more political|date=2007-06-27|publisher=EU Observer|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

ee also


External links

* [ Members of the Barroso Commission] , European Commission website
** [ Commission's work programe] , European Commission website
* [ Photo of the Members of the European Commission presided by José Manuel Barroso] , European NAvigator
* [ The Barroso Commission and its 'cabinets'] , EurActiv

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