It looks more and more likely that the European Parliament will reject the Barroso Commission today. Last night, members of the Liberal group in the European Parliament announced that about two-thirds of them would vote against the new Commission because of the views of Mr Buttiglione, the Commissioner designate for Justice, Freedom and Security. With the support of the socialists, greens and communists this would probably constitute a majority against the Commission.
If that happened, it would not only be good news for civil liberties in the European Union (I have explained in a previous post why Mr Buttiglione’s defence does not take away my concerns). As becomes increasingly clear, however, a ‘no’ vote would also be excellent news for European democracy, because we would see the European Parliament do its job (holding the Commission to account) even when it is denied the right to effectively do so.
Irrespective of Mr Buttiglione’s fitness for the job as Justice Commissioner, it is clear that Commission President Barroso has seriously mishandled his clash with Parliament by sticking so stubbornly to his original position. In doing so, he has misjudged his own room for manoeuvre and even worsened the political situation by irritating Parliament. That is weak leadership, and it makes you wonder if not only Mr Buttiglione, but also Mr Barroso might be unfit for the job.
Mr Barroso just announced in the European Parliament that he would not submit his current Commission to the vote as there would probably not be a majority. He will consult with the Council and come up with a new proposal. In his capacity as President of the Council, Dutch Europe Minister Nicolai said he “understood the situation” and that the Prodi Commission would stay in office for the time being. The EP sitting is now adjourned in order to enable for political group meetings.