A Good First Step

The Financial Times reports this morning that EU Commission President José Barroso is about to launch a major ‘deregulation campaign’. He is reported as saying that he was determined to get the Commission to embrace better regulation, to carry out more systematic impact assessments and to make more frequent use of the option of not legislating at all. “The important thing is to change the culture of the organisation”. Maybe all this won’t turn out to be the last word in sliced bread, but it is moving in the right direction. According to the FT:

Mr Barroso wants to axe a wide variety of laws designed to impose EU-wide standards, claiming that some legislation was “absurd” and brought Europe into disrepute….
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Let Battle Be Joined

Well, things are shaping up nicely for a ‘healthy debate of the underlying issues’ on 16/17 June. Chirac and Schr?der have pronounced: the ratification process must continue, Jean-Claude Juncker is warning that failure to reach a budget deal at the summit would “turn the big European difficulties into a big European crisis“, and Peter Mandelson forsees a historic opportunity for Tony Blair. Mandelson is quoted as saying:

Tony Blair could carry on for another three years now that he has been given a “fresh calling” to resolve Europe’s crisis, his old ally Peter Mandelson claimed last night.

Mr Mandelson said the French and Dutch rejection of the European Union constitution handed Mr Blair another chance to secure his legacy as Prime Minister“.

What does all this mean? Well, according to France’s Le Figaro:

Si Londres gagne, c’est la victoire de l’Europe lib?rale, ? l’anglo-saxonne, aussi ?largie que possible, un grand march? contr?l? au strict minimum par Bruxelles. Si Berlin l’emporte, c’est la victoire de l’Europe politique, libre-?changiste, mais surtout f?d?rale, avec une d?fense, une diplomatie, et une monnaie commune. Dans l’Europe b?tarde du trait? de Nice, tous les Etats membres n’ont pas encore choisi leur camp. La crise va les obliger ? tomber les masques.”

“”If London wins [the ratification dispute] it is a victory for liberal, Anglo-Saxon Europe, enlarged as much as possible, a giant market, with regulation from Brussels kept to a strict minimum. If It is Berlin that carries the day, it’s victory for the Political vision of Europe, free-trade, but especially federal, with a common defence, diplomacy, and a common money. In the ‘bastard’ Europe born of Nice treaty, all members states have not yet chosen their camp. The crisis will force everyone to take off their masks.”

Of course there is a third party here: the Commission. What Barroso will undoubtedly be working for is a pragmatic, workable compromise.

Mr Barroso urged the French leader and his colleagues to “turn a crisis into an opportunity” and argued: “It is vital that we use the present moment to forge a new consensus.”

He warned Europe not to indulge in a “blame game” or an “ideological rift” between supporters of free markets and those who believe in government intervention. What was needed, Mr Barroso said, was “an intelligent synthesis between the market and the state, which can help Europe win and not lose in the face of globalisation”.”

The Sort Of News We Don’t Need

The FT is running the following story about Barroso:

Jos? Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, will drop his supervision of antitrust cases affecting the shipping industry, shortly after it emerged he took a holiday on the luxury yacht of a Greek shipping tycoon….

the timing of Mr Barroso’s decision is likely to reignite the controversy over his summer holiday as a guest on a yacht belonging to Spiros Latsis, son of John Latsis, the Greek shipping magnate.

Are these people all so desparately lonely that they have nothing better to do with their time? I have simply one question: with all the money we pay our leaders, don’t they have sufficient resources to organise their own holidays?

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.
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Buttiglione on his way out?

While most observers still expect a compromise between incoming Commission president Barroso and those groups in the EP which threatened to block his entire team over the Buttiglione row – Mr Barroso will meet with leading MEPs tomorrow -, according to EUPolitix.com’s press review, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reports that Rocco Buttiglione may “resign” today and be “replaced by Italy?s highly regarded foreign minister Franco Frattini.”

Update from EUPolitix:

Further pressure on Barroso to reshuffle his team came on Wednesday afternoon from parliament?s Greens who said Buttiglione was ?unacceptable? as a commissioner. One solution doing the rounds in parliament?s corridors late on Wednesday is for a three way swap of portfolios between the Italian, Dutch and French commissioners-designates. Buttiglione would take over the transport portfolio, Neelie Kroes would move to justice and Jacques Barrot would take on the competition dossier.

Update: After meeting with leading MEPs incoming commission president Barroso decided to take a chance with an unchanged commission line-up, including Mr Buttiglione. Without an apology, the latter once again regretted his comments that will now lead to a stand-off with the European Parliament on October 27. Even though Mr Barroso’s commission has backing from the center-right European People’s Party, Josep Borrell, the Parliament’s president said that with Socialist, Green and Liberal Parliamentary groups opposed it’s far from certain that Mr Barroso will win the vote. Given the institutional problems involved – as well as Mr Barroso’s offer to set up a cross-departmental working group on human rights – the latter Parliamentary parties haven’t ruled out voting for it yet – but remain highly critical. More here.
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