Friday 4 September 2009

The Barroso Identity & The Barroso Ultimatum

José Manuel Barroso has spent his summer waiting for his staff members to write his government programme (PDF) for the next five years*.

The result is 40 pages long, and I spent a good 50 minutes train ride yesterday to go through it.

To make it short: It's not worth reading.

I know that from somebody who hasn't shown a great deal of support for Barroso over the last year this conclusion may sound expectable. But I was ready to read the document without prejudices. And so I started. And so I tried hard. But the document is so much Barroso-like that it hurts.
  • First, it has no clear structure.
  • Second, it assembles all the nice-sounding topics (representative examples: innovation, participation, communication, environment, security) without filling them with content and without prioritising any of them.
  • Third, it sounds like ass-licking whenever he speaks about the Parliament - while everyone knows that when your head is already in the ass of one person (the Council) you cannot simultaneously lick the ass of somebody else.
  • Four, he presents himself as the candidate of change while defending his own achievements (which he actually doesn't list).
  • Five, Barroso defends the way decisions are taken in the EU while calling for more transparency - which is not possible because more transparency would end the classical back-room worst-case compromises we regularly get presented as great decisions.
  • Six, he tells us he has a passion for Europe, but this identity of his never translates into his behaviour.
  • Seven, he notes that the document is not exhaustive, but how can you write a 40 page government programme that encompasses all major policy topics without being exhaustive - does this mean Barroso is unable to focus his thoughts on 40 pages?
  • Eight, he wants solid action instead of rhetoric, but his text is nothing but the latter.
  • Nine, the only truly firm statement throughout the text is his support of the single market - which I support - but I suppose that this is not what the Left in the European Parliament wants to hear.
Isn't that funny: Barroso spends 40 pages on writing about nothing and everything in a fuzzy language to win all sides, but the most clear policy statement is one that one side of the Parliament might find a little too aggressive...

In fact, I could go even more into details and especially wording, but it would mean spending time writing about nothing. As Barroso did. But while he is highly paid to do so, I am not.

One thing is for sure: No decision of a political group will be based on this document. If the political groups (Socialists & Democrats, ALDE) will vote for Barroso, they will vote for him out of pure power considerations, because they know that this will secure their influence on other posts or on certain policy areas.

Thus, the ultimatum for Barroso has begun, and we will see whether he has enough to offer to S&D and ALDE to secure his re-election on 16 September - but his government programme will end in the litter box of history!

* - Just to avoid confusion: I don't think that JMB has written the whole document on his own, but that a lot has been written by his staff. Yet, I do not have any proof!

Quotes from the document

"This is not the time for business as usual or for routine – what we need is a transformational agenda."

"[T]he European culture in decision-making at all levels, the Community method
", which he calls "decisive to use Europe's assets to achieve the best results for citizens".

"Setting the priorities for Europe in a ten year horizon"

"This strategy for the "EU 2020" will comprise a more convergent and coordinated approach for the reform of Europe's economies through investment in new sources of growth. This means boosting research, development and innovation.This means upgrading of skills as the basis for more employment. This means more competitiveness and less administrative burden to strengthen our industrial base, a modern service sector and a thriving rural economy. This means closing the "missing links" in the internal market to realize its full potential. This means action against climate change and for energy security to make our economies and societies sustainable. This means deploying the networks of the future, be it broadband or a new European supergrid for electricity and gas. And this means securing sound public finances."

"I have a passion for Europe....It is based on the values of peace, freedom, justice and solidarity, and it must mean advancing people's Europe."

"To accomplish this, we need a more political Europe. This requires a special partnership of the two European institutions "par excellence" – the Commission and the European Parliament. We hold a joint responsibility for the common European good: it is when we work together, when we have a clear consensus on our vision for Europe, that we can best realise our ambitions for the transformational agenda that the Europe of tomorrow demands of us."

"This document does not aim at being exhaustive."

"I will redouble my efforts to do everything possible to make an ambitious Europe happen."

"I want the European policy agenda to be built much more clearly around the rights and the needs of Europeans."

"I have always preferred, and I will always prefer, solid achievements over empty rhetoric."

"1. Restarting economic growth today and ensuring long-term sustainability and competitiveness for the future.
2. Fighting unemployment and reinforcing our social cohesion.
3. Turning the challenge of a sustainable Europe to our competitive advantage.
4. Ensuring the security of Europeans.
5. Reinforcing EU citizenship and participation."

"5. Reinforcing EU citizenship and participation.
Revitalising the link between the peoples of Europe and the EU will make it both more legitimate and more effective. Empowering citizens to be involved in decisions affecting their lives, including by ensuring transparency on how they are taken, will help to achieve these aims. This means that the rights of European citizens must have real effect: citizens today should not find that they still face obstacles when they move across borders within the EU."

"This Commission has also launched an important review of the common fisheries policy. On the basis of the consultations which are now underway, the next Commission should set out how European fisheries policy can be placed on a sustainable footing."

"The recent crisis showed that there remains a strong short-term temptation to roll back the single market when times are hard. There were attempts to use the crisis as a pretext to attack the single market. The Commission will remain an implacable defender of the single market as a cornerstone of the Treaties, and will do everything in its power to defend it as the best guarantee of long-term prosperity. The experience of the past year has shown once again that the single market is the rock on which European growth is built. But it also needs to be updated to suit the demands of tomorrow's economy."

"This Commission has instigated a revolution in the way policies are made at EU level, with public consultations and impact assessment now the norm for new legislative proposals and a major simplification of existing Community law now underway. By 2012 the next Commission will deliver on our commitment to reduce administrative burden by 25%. But I want to go further. We need to match this huge investment in ex ante assessment with an equivalent effort in ex post evaluation – to ensure that our proposals really do deliver what they promise and to enable us to revise and correct them where they fail to work as expected. All of these initiatives are designed to focus EU action on the essentials, removing bureaucratic processes and unnecessary centralisation."

"I will also seek ways of helping the European Parliament to exercise its scrutiny rights over the full range of politically important decisions."

"Last but not least, the people's Europe is also about the accountability and openness of the EU institutions. Dialogue with the citizens and the different actors in civil society, a hallmark of the current Commission, will continue to be of critical importance People have a right to accessible information. The Commission will redouble its efforts to have a real Commission presence
communicating on the ground in the Member States and in the regions, in partnership with the European Parliament, listening to citizens and dealing first hand with their questions and concerns. I will also examine ways and means to intensify the dialogue between the Commission and the media. But we should be under no illusions: the gap in awareness of the EU can only be closed in full partnership with national and regional authorities. We must break out of the negative trap where politicians are quick to take the credit for the positive achievements of Europe, and quick to blame "Brussels" or "Strasbourg" for everything they don't like. We need a more mature dialogue with our citizens on decisions that affect their daily lives."

"The appointment of a new High Representative who is at the same time Vice President of the Commission in charge of External Relations is a major innovation which carries an enormous potential. The same is true for the future European External Action Service which would bring together resources from the Commission, the Council Secretariat and Member States to help leverage the best results from our external action. This will be a break with the past and I am determined to make it work effectively."

"[E]nlargement has been a huge source of strength for the Union, and for the promotion of peace and stability in our continent. At the same time, enlargement can only take place when both the EU itself and the candidate country are ready to take on the responsibilities that come with it. And enlargement is not an infinite process. For those neighbours that will not become members of the EU, we need to develop credible and attractive alternatives that satisfy the aspirations of these countries as well as the EU's. The next Commission will take forward the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership to develop a neighbourhood policy that meets the challenges we and our neighbours face."

"The EU budget must focus on activities which produce genuine European added value [...]; move towards an approach based on solidarity, burden-sharing and equity which is comprehensive and shared by all [...]; stability of the financial framework needs to be counterbalanced by a far greater degree of flexibility so as to enable the Union to respond effectively to new challenges and needs."

"Only the Commission has the authority, the administrative capacity and the technical expertise to make proposals that take the interests of all Member States and all citizens into account, and the long term view needed to tackle the big issues we face today. Only the Commission has the authority and the independence to ensure the equal treatment of all Member States in the enforcement of treaty obligations and legislation."

"The authority of the President is of critical importance to guarantee collegiality, coherence and the Commission's special role in the European system. It is now recognised that the current College, the first of the enlarged EU of 27, has been able to bring together different portfolio interests effectively, to tackle crosscutting, integrated policies like migration, energy and climate change."

"OLAF should be given full independence outside the Commission"


Nils Woerner said...

Nothing on Barroso, rather on your your argument 9: Support of the single market - "but I suppose that this is not what the Left in the European Parliament wants to hear".

This is not really a fair statement. I am convinced that the left is in favour of the single market. But it must be a single market that is the servant of the people and not their master.

In other words: The single market cannot be the excuse to dismantle welfare states and worker's protection. We need a clear framework that sets rules for the single marked.

These rules must respect social, welfare and employees rights. Not only profit maximation.

Nils Woerner said...

And by the way: I personally believe that Barroso would not be able to provide any assistance in going into this directions... (So we end up with Barroso again)

Julien said...

@ Nils

I know that the Left is not against the single market, but I haven't heard any similarly strong statement from the PES (not to speak of the far left) in the past year - so I assume that such a clear commitment by Barroso will rather be seen negatively rather than politically reassuring on this side of the political spectrum.

Anonymous said...

By the way, why is this an official commission PR, why is it on the commission website and who transalted it into so many languages?

I think this is scandaloues, since it's basically a campaign document for Barroso...

Julien Frisch said...

@ anonymous

I suppose you are from LYMEC, since they issued a statement with the same content yesterday... ;-)

french derek said...

Surely the Single Market is already a "given"? It's been in force for long enough. Where has this man (Barroso) been?

Svetoslav Apostolov said...

Hi, Julien,

I read your post and you really made my day :D

Let me start by admitting that I did not even care to read the "Barroso's" plan for his eventual (at that time) next mandate since, based on what I have seen in his mandate, I pretty much expected it to be garbage. From your analysis I see that I have done right investing my time in reading Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal" - not a masterpiece of his but definitely more exciting than Barroso's piece...

Nevertheless, I skipped your extracts from the plan and it reminded me of the Buzz Phrase Generator:

so I did have some nice laugh.

In view of the last quotation from his plan, on OLAF, and as far as transparency is concerned, I would like to refer you to my articles on the hypocrisy and corruption and fraud in the European institutions:

You may find these interesting, and they are richly supplied with references.