Asked if the Prime Minister had had any meetings this morning in Rome about the European Commission, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had had an informal discussion with European Commission President-elect Barroso. No doubt he would also have informal discussions with other European leaders. The Prime Minister had told Mr Barroso that we would fully support any decision he made to resolve the issue. However, today was not about reaching a decision on the shape of the new European Commission. It was a ceremonial occasion to mark the signing of the EU Constitution.
Asked how long it might take to “sort out the Commission mess”, the PMOS said that he would disagree with the description. We would accept that there were difficulties which would inevitably occur with an EU membership of twenty five. However, we were confident that Mr Barroso would be able to sort the problems out. Given the overall history of the EU, these difficulties would seem small compared to the true significance of today which was seeing the leaders of twenty five European countries coming together and agreeing a Constitution.
Asked why the Prime Minister wasn’t staying for the formal lunch given the significance of today’s event, the PMOS said that the important thing today was the signing of the Constitution which the Prime Minister had attended. He had also taken the opportunity to talk informally to Mr Barroso and other European leaders. The lunch was a formality at which the Foreign Secretary would represent the UK. The PMOS reminded journalists that the European leaders were due to meet again this time next week in Brussels. Put to him that the Prime Minister’s decision not to attend the lunch was a snub to Prime Minister Berlusconi, the PMOS said that he would disagree absolutely – and so would the Italians.
Asked if the Prime Minister had advised Mr Barroso on what he should do to resolve the difficulties in shaping the new European Commission, the PMOS said that we would obviously give Mr Barroso our private advice if he asked us for it – as indeed we had done during the course of the week. However, we had no intention of making that advice public because it was in no one’s interest to do so. The important thing was to resolve the issue as quickly as Mr Barroso judged it possible to do. It went without saying that he would have our full support. The Prime Minister personally believed that Mr Barroso had done a very good job in what were clearly difficult circumstances. Once the new Commission was up and running, we had no doubt that it would be a driving force in changing Europe in the direction we favoured.
Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news
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