Should Portuguese MEPs vote yes to Barroso?

asks Miguel Portas

Concerning the honour felt by Portugal in response to the invitation made to Durão Barroso, let me share with you a petite histoire that took place during the `80s. A new Prime Minister had just been designated and was making efforts to build his government. However, some departments became thorny… in an attempt to solve the issue the designated Prime Minister decided to invite a young finance magus to one of the departments.

The invited person in question showed his appreciation for the gesture but nevertheless explained that he could not or would not accept the position. After some pressure a compromise was reached: he would agree to become a part-time head of cabinet as long as he could choose the Minister. Believe it or not, it did happen and it happened in Portugal.

Mutatis mutandis, there seems to be a certain similarity with the Barroso’s invitation. He is the “heads of department” candidate, the same ones that although defeated on 13 June remain in charge of Europe’s fate – Blair, Schröder, Chirac and Berlusconi. They tried amongst themselves to find a mutually agreeable name to preside over the Commission  and ended up agreeing on the remaining lowest common denominator: the most defeated in the midst of all Prime Ministers; the one that, coming from a small country, would provide the assurance of following the only safe policy for them all – always agree with whoever’s in charge.

I fully understand that the invitation is an honour for the one that receives it – becoming the Commission’s President is the cherry on top of a successful career. Yet, only a “narrow-minded provincial vision” would regard it as granting Portugal any significance.

Au contraire, the name proposed only discloses Europe’s crisis of ambition. We have only to take a look at the sequence of Commission Presidents, during the past 20 years – Jacques Delors, Santer, Romano Prodi and, now, Barroso- to feel a sort of vertigo in the face of such a steep decline. This is what’s behind Barroso’s nomination. In addition, he is “in” as a result of the weak power bond that the European Commission will become as a result the expenses of the Constitutional Treaty. Were there a different power articulation,  I assure you that the “cabinet chefs” wouldn’t leave the position so easily.

One can always ask: will Portugal gain any advantage from these circumstance? This would imply that Barroso’s interests are Portugal’s interests. However, most Portuguese people consider him to have been damaging to Portugal, and they have expressed it quite recently: he conducted an ultra-orthodox implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, with excruciating costs to the economy and to social rights; he supported Bush’s war; and he assumed an egotistical, despotic attitude, as well as conniving with big businesses.

Durão Barroso stands for a certain politics, and for a certain political style. If he is not suitable for Portugal, how can he be suitable for Europe? In the Commission, he will stand for an “Atlanticist Europe” and support the Stability and Development Pact. I can see no benefit to this. Exporting to Europe what we do not want for ourselves is without doubt depressing.

For all the above mentioned I will vote against Durão Barroso on the 22ndJuly. With both European and Portuguese pride. For I believe democracy not to be a game where the ones that lose at the ballot box win in the institutions. On the contrary…

Miguel Portas was elected on 13th June to represent the Portuguese Left Bloc in the European Parliament. This article is translated from the original, which appeared in  Diário de Noticias,  on 1st July.