“I have the feeling that the work of this Commission has been recognized”
— Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president after EU leaders nominated him for a second-term
Solidarity is a concept never far from the lips of Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, President of the European Commission (EC), the executive arm of the European Union (EU) responsible for proposing and implementing legislation. Over the years, the word has underlined his efforts, from trying to raise living standards across the European Union (EU) to joining forces with the U.S. to solving the economic crisis. Of late, he has called for solidarity in the European energy sector by focusing on uniting the 27 “fragmented, smaller energy markets,” into one big Euro-energy entity.
Campaigning for unity, Barroso has come a long way since his Maoist student activist days in Portugal. Barroso was born in Lisbon and after graduating from the University of Lisbon with a law degree, he moved to Geneva to finish his Masters in economics and social sciences. Barroso then embarked on an academic career working as a teaching assistant and professor. Very well read, he is the author of numerous publications in political science and international relations.
Barroso’s political activity began in his college days and continued when he entered mainstream politics as Portugal’s Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs. He quickly rose to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and later was elected as a representative for Lisbon. He subsequently became the Prime Minister of Portugal in 2002, and enacted reforms to make the public sector more efficient. One of his first challenges as prime minister was to counter a ballooning budget deficit, which Barroso attacked by raising taxes and cutting government spending.
Two years later, Barroso became the President of the EC. When he came to power, Barroso was hailed as a dynamic individual who could right the wrongs of his predecessor, Italy’s former Prime Minister Romano Prodi. And he did bring in change. He sought to liberalize markets in areas like telecommunications and energy. He also earned praise for his commitment to free trade and competitiveness. But criticism tumbled down and Barroso came under fire for what has been considered his slow response to the economic crisis.
Over the past year, Barroso has been lobbying hard to secure a second term as president of the EC and he has now received the unanimous official backing of the EU. But he still requires the approval of the European Parliament, where his most vocal critics lurk. In the end, Barroso’s reputation as a radical, hardworking and ambitious person might just win him a command performance at the EC. Apart from fighting global warming and improving supervision of the world financial markets, one of Barroso’s biggest tasks ahead will be to shuffle up more support for the EC, which has been steadily sliding over the years, as Euro-skepticism has increasingly climbed.
When Barroso moved to Brussels in 2004, he dropped the Durao from his name, which means “tough guy” in Portuguese. Right now, he just might want to revive his full name.
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