Archive for November, 2004

New Commission: Barroso keeps walking a tightrope

4 November 2004

European Commission president Barroso seems to have finished the new line-up for his team. The changes are minimal:

  • Rocco Buttiglione, the controversial Conservative, is replaced by Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini. Buttiglione remains in his current job as Italy’s Europe minister;
  • the Hungarian candidate Laszlo Kovacs, a Socialist whom the European Parliament thought showed too little affinity with his proposed portfolio, moves from energy to taxation;
  • Latvian Ingrida Udre, a Liberal who also failed to convince the EP of her qualifications, is replaced by veteran diplomat Andris Piebalgs, moving from taxation to energy;

Interestingly, Dutchwoman Neelie Kroes, a Liberal, stays on Competition. She was criticised, mainly by the Socialists and Greens in the European Parliament, for alleged conflicts of interest. Unlike Mr Buttiglione, however, she was never rejected by the EP committee that reviewed her candidacy, although in the high-tension days surrounding the-vote-that-never-took-place, the Conservative EPP group in the EP suddenly withdrew its support for her. To me, this has always looked as a political move, stemming from EPP frustration with the fact that the Liberal group withheld its (pivotal) support for the Commission as long as Mr Buttiglione was in it. Conflicts of interest are, after all, not usually a disqualification in EPP circles.

Anyway, as Mr Barroso announced the new line-up at all, we have to assume that EPP group leader Hans-Gert Pöttering has changed his mind (again) about Mrs Kroes, probably after a word with Barroso and one or two Conservative government leaders. In the European Parliament, this does not mean that all EPP members will follow Pöttering and vote for the Commission, but the chances for a majority look better than last time. Mr Barroso keeps walking a tightrope: between giving in just enough to the EP, and changing as little as possible that could upset the Council.

Four more years of chaos

3 November 2004

It looks like the race has been run. Ohio is reporting 2 771 814 vs 2 624 201 votes for Bush (at 99% of precincts counted). Now I know the provisional ballots still have to be counted, but their number is only slightly larger than the difference between the two candidates and it is unlikely that they are 1) all valid votes and 2) all for Kerry. So I have to assume George Bush has won. I’m sure Bin Laden is happy with the result.

Crucial for America’s internal policy, however, is the outcome of the House and Senate elections. They have come firmly in Republican hands. So even if Kerry becomes president, he will still have to work with a conservative Congress. Which makes the thought of a Bush victory all the more worrying…

On the other hand, as Crooked Timber points out, “responsibility without power” for Kerry is probably not the thing to wish for. So under these circumstances (and I cannot believe I am writing this) a Bush victory is probably the least of two evils. At least it will be clear to all who is responsible for the chaos we are going to face. That is, if the wisdom of the American voters can be trusted next time…

Osama wants Bush for president

1 November 2004

Why else would he have popped out of his cave so shortly before the election, knowing that terrorism is the one issue that drives voters to Bush instead of Kerry?

But who do the Americans want for president? We’ll know in, er, 36 hours or so. Or at least we’ll know what the lawsuits will be about…