BRUSSELS – European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso declared his candidacy for a second five-year term on Tuesday after electoral gains for his center-right allies strengthened his bid.
Barroso, a Portuguese conservative, has headed the EU's executive since 2004 and would represent stability and continuity at a time of economic crisis although the European Union's response to the financial turmoil has been criticized.
Barroso said he was accepting a proposal to seek a new term from the Czech Republic, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency and will be in charge of a summit next week at which he will seek the endorsement of all EU leaders.
I am ... honored that the President of the European Council has today asked me if he can put forward my name for a second mandate, Barroso told a news conference with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer. I have agreed to this request.
Fischer will now consult other national leaders to try to secure backing for Barroso at the June 18-19 summit in Brussels.
Barroso, 53, a former prime minister of Portugal whose term as Commission president ends in November, also won the backing of Sweden, which takes over the EU presidency on July 1.
Barroso is the first person to declare his candidacy and is expected to win a second term, especially after center-right parties triumphed in a European Parliament election. The assembly has the final say in appointing the president.
The Commission president is the most prominent EU position although power is shared with the European Parliament and the Council of EU heads of state and government, which is presided over by each of the 27 member countries in turn.
The European Commission is the EU's executive, has far-reaching regulatory powers and proposes much of the EU's legislation. The president decides its policy priorities and chooses the other 26 members of the Commission.
QUESTION OF TIMING
Barroso has been a strong proponent of the EU's single market during a term that has included the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, and French and Dutch voters' rejection of the EU's planned constitution.
He said the European Parliament election had allowed him to clarify his position on the possibility of a new term.
Although a record-low turnout highlighted voter apathy and dissatisfaction, the election strengthened the center-right's grip on the assembly and punished several left-wing national governments over economic problems or domestic crises.
Signaling his priorities, Barroso said: Europeans want a stable economy and a new financial system. Europeans want job security and help for those that are unemployed.
They want economic recovery that is smarter and greener and sustainable. They want a Europe that safeguards fundamental freedoms and security at the same time, he said.
Center-right Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said it was important to establish who would lead the Commission as soon as possible even though there will be changes to the EU institutions if the Lisbon reform treaty is approved.
Some countries have sought to delay the appointment until Ireland holds a referendum on the treaty, probably in October.
This is partly for political reasons but also because the treaty would complicate procedures by creating the new post of an EU president in whose hands greater power would be concentrated.
I favor giving a new Commission president a full mandate now directly because I see a lot of challenges for the Swedish (Council) presidency, Reinfeldt told reporters in Brussels.
The problem with all of this is that we might run out of energy at a time of change, of financial crisis .... It just adds uncertainty -- who to call? Who to ask? Who should be the driving force of the process?
(Additional reporting by Mark John and Jeremy Smith; Editing by Matthew Jones)