» Wednesday, October 27, 2004

European Commission

Asked for a reaction to European Commission President-elect Barroso’s announcement this morning, the PMOS said that Mr Barroso had asked the European Parliament for more time to resolve the problems relating to the membership of the new European Commission. We supported the efforts he was making to reach agreement. Indeed, the reception he had received in the European Parliament this morning suggested that there was broad support for the way he was handling the matter. Obviously we would do everything we could to help resolve the situation. That said, it was primarily a matter for Mr Barroso and the European Parliament to sort out. Asked if the Prime Minister would use his influence to put pressure on Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy to withdraw Rocco Buttiglione and nominate someone else, the PMOS repeated that this was primarily a matter for Mr Barroso to deal with, although we would of course remain in contact with him and continue to offer him our help and support. We had already provided some advice and expressed a view to him. However, we would not be briefing on that or any other communication because it was private. Asked if the Prime Minister would speak to the Italian Prime Minister if Mr Barroso asked him to do so, the PMOS said that he had no intention of briefing or commenting on private conversations the Prime Minister might or might not have with Mr Barroso. Suffice it to say that the Prime Minister and Mr Barroso were in regular contact, as you would expect. Asked to confirm reports of a special meeting between Mr Barroso and European leaders in Rome on Friday ahead of the signing of the EU Constitution Treaty, the PMOS said that he was not aware of any plans for such a meeting. It was up to Mr Barroso to decide how he wanted to move forward on this issue and to set out the sort of timescale he had in mind. If he wanted to consult us or any other EU member, he was perfectly entitled to do so. Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to Prime Minister Berlusconi today, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware. Questioned as to whether the two Prime Ministers were scheduled to have a bilateral in Rome on Friday, the PMOS said that he was not aware of any such plans.

Asked if he would agree that Mr Barroso’s announcement this morning made a mockery of the signing of the Treaty on Friday, the PMOS said no. The European Parliament was perfectly entitled to scrutinise and approve Commission nominees. Today’s events showed the European Parliament in action, as was perfectly proper.

Asked if the Prime Minister would support any decision by Mr Barroso to change Peter Mandelson’s Commission portfolio if it would help resolve the current difficulties, the PMOS said that it wasn’t his practice to respond to hypothetical questions. This was a matter for Mr Barroso and we would leave it to him to deal with. Asked if the Prime Minister believed that the current process to select and approve the Commission should be changed in order to allow individual nominees to be rejected rather than reject the Commission as a whole, the PMOS said that the current system was the one we were dealing with. He did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a hypothetical discussion about changes to it.

Asked for a reaction to Derek Scott’s negative comments about the European Constitution as stated in his Today Programme interview this morning, the PMOS said he doubted whether anyone would be surprised by the comments. Mr Scott was entitled to his view. Equally, we were entitled to disagree with it.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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