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Barroso calls for political union

JosÈ Manuel Barroso The head of the European Commission has called for the finalisation of a banking union, leading to eventual political integration, in a keynote speech to MEPs.

José Manuel Barroso has made the State of the Union speech since 2010.

Holding national governments and financial markets responsible for the debt crisis, he said that a political union “needs to be our political horizon”. Last year, Barroso indicated said that this would include a stronger European Parliament taking precedence over national parliaments (made possible by a new treaty).

Barroso sparked controversy when he said that Euro-sceptics wanted to go back to the pre-integrated Europe “of the divisions, the war, the trenches”. Jim Nicholson condemned the comment and said that he had witnessed this “arrogant attitude and disregard for the real world” during the CAP talks.

Diane Dodds noted that little of the speech “dealt with the issues facing people in their day to day lives or for those running a business, in what are difficult economic conditions for families and commerce.”

Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson also dismissed the speech. “It’s obvious that President Barroso – like other EU leaders who are wedded to the failed strategy of austerity – is out of touch with the actuality of the living experience of those saddled with the reality of their austerity policies.”

Portrait of Catherine Ashton Commission predictions

Jim Nicholson has called for a more vocal UK representative in the next European Commission. “We need a Commissioner who is more pro-active on behalf of the UK,” Nicholson told agendaNi. Current Commissioner Catherine Ashton was appointed to the trade brief in 2008 and has led on EU foreign policy since 2009. Ashton is a Labour peer and her term ends in December 2014. David Cameron is expected to nominate a successor from within his own ranks but the candidate will have to satisfy both Tory backbenchers and MEPs, who give final approval.

Nicholson predicted that José Manuel Barroso would step down as Commission President after next May’s European Parliament election. Barroso, a former Prime Minister of Portugal, has held the post since 2004 and his successor will be appointed by EU heads of government.

The “quite combative” European Parliament President Martin Schulz was “trying very hard” to succeed Barroso and has become more diplomatic in his dealings with other MEPs. Other contenders included Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy, Polish PM Donald Tusk, former Spanish PM José María Aznar and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

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