Hitchcock in Rome.

“It is better to take time to get it right.”

When Jos? Manuel Barroso asked the European Parliament with these words not to vote on his current commission line-up, European Parlamentarians welcomed his decision, downplaying that he was rather late for the party, emphasizing that he showed up at all. But of course, the EP is having a party Mr Barroso had no intent to attend at all. His decision is a concession of defeat.

Yet, despite the administrational problems caused by the delay for the sitting commission, it is entirely inappropriate to speak of an “institutional crisis” – if only as a possibilty – as Gerhard Schr?der did in his initial reaction to the postponement. But Mr Barroso preempted such comments, now realising himself that

?These last days have demonstrated that the EU is an intensely political construction and that this parliament, elected by popular vote across all our member states, has a vital role to play in the governance of Europe.?

Sure, Friday’s constitutional treaty signing ceremony in Rome will in some sense be overshadowed by the Parliament’s rejection to endorse the incoming commission. But given Mr Barroso’s problematic cast, the sky would have been clouded even in the case of an obviously controversial and weak Parliamentary endorsement.

But the host, Silvio Berlusconi, made the bed he has now to lie in. He was eager to have the signing ceremony in Rome, and is now said to have to tried to avoid the international embarrassment of being the center of a European row by convincing Mr Buttiglione to “voluntarily” resign last night. But Mr Buttiglione refused, and the Prime Minister’s clout in this matter seems to be rather limited due to Italian coalition politics.

According to Corriere della Sera “Italy is immersed against its will somewhere between psychological thriller and political limbo” (translations courtesy of the BBC’s Rome correspondent Tamsin Smith).

So we did not get “High Noon” in Strasbourg today, but we may get a Hitchcock remake set in Rome.