European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso is worried that his institution will be sidelined under the new EU treaty which potentially introduces a new power hierarchy into the European Union.
In a frank interview with Belgian newspaper de Standaard, Barroso admits that he is eyeing the new treaty with some concern as it risks seeing member states circumvent both the commission and European Parliament and take decisions among themselves. „If the new treaty is ratified, which I strongly hope, we will have to make sure that its changes are not abused to reduce the de facto power of the European institutions.”
Member states are currently putting the final touches on the EU treaty which is hoped will be in force by 2009. Amongst its most noticeable changes is the introduction of a five-year term president of the EU council - the 27 member states' decision making body - and an EU foreign minister. Depending on the personalities of the people who occupy the posts, they have the potential to thoroughly shake-up the way the union currently runs its day-to-day business. The treaty also sets the stage for a power struggle between the commission president, council president and foreign minister who all to a certain extent represent the bloc towards the outside world.
With Barroso eyeing a second term as commission president from 2009, he will be in the thick of the changes. He suggests that the new longterm council president, which replaces the current system of rotation between countries every six months, could lead to a „new circuit” being created outside the Commission and the Parliament. „The danger exists that the governments will handle problems among themselves, without taking into account the European institutions,” said the Portuguese politician.
„Some member states do not accept that there is a European interest, which is different from a compromise between member states. I constantly explain to the British that the common market, in which they are the champions, is impossible without strong European institutions, such as the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Court [of Justice].” At the moment, the commission's main duty is as guardian of the EU treaty.
It keeps an eye on member states to see if they are upholding law, referring to the court if it suspects they are in breach of it. Its other main duty is to propose EU law, the sole institution that may do so. More generally it acts as broker between countries and should represent a European viewpoint. (EU Observer)