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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 16:44 GMT
European power struggle rumbles on

Chris Morris
BBC News Europe Correspondent in Strasbourg

MEPs listening to the new Commission president's speech
Has the dispute whetted MEPs' appetite for power?

The European Commission has been released from limbo.

After a three week hiatus, two members of the initial team have been replaced, and a third has been moved to a new job.

Now, after much huffing and puffing, parliament has approved the reshuffled line-up.

Most members of the three main political groups in parliament - the Conservatives, the Socialists and the Liberals - voted in favour. The new Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hailed a "great result".

How he must have wished he had got it right first time.

Uneasy truce

Hostility in the European Parliament to the new Commission has certainly not disappeared.

From the Greens on one hand, and from the Eurosceptic right on the other, there was nothing but criticism.

"Would you buy a used car from this Commission?" asked the UK Independence Party MEP, Nigel Farage. "The answer simply must be no."

Question marks remain over several of Mr Barroso's team, not least the new Commissioner for Competition, Neelie Kroes from the Netherlands, who faces allegations of conflicts of interest over her past business links.

Many MEPs will be watching her performance extremely closely.

Power play

Even from those who voted in favour of the new team, there were warnings that no-one should take the parliament for granted from now on.

Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission President
Mr Barroso is delighted the issue is settled

"If the parliament calls upon you, you must come and answer our questions as a priority," said the leader of the Conservative group, Hans-Gert Poettering.

"Under the previous Commission the response to that principle was very patchy," he said.

There were plenty of promises from Mr Barroso that he would continue to consult closely here in Strasbourg - he has learnt his lesson.

But he also pointed out that he has to work with EU member governments as well.

It was a timely reminder, because it is the governments which continue to call the shots within the EU.

Realities of power

Members of the European Parliament may well feel they have increased their power and influence over the last few weeks.

That is all well and good. But even the most vocal among them have got some way to go before they become household names.

So the battle for institutional influence within the EU will rumble on, with a newly confident parliament waiting for another opportunity to raise its profile.

But the Commission has to get down to its business quickly. Its top priority: to get the European economy moving. A long-term project if ever there was one.

Mr Barroso will now take office on the top floor of the Berlaymont, his newly refurbished headquarters in Brussels.

Talk of an institutional crisis has already been forgotten, but over the last few weeks the new president found out just how complex his new job is likely to be.




SEE ALSO:
Q&A: EU Commission row
18 Nov 04 |  Europe
At-a-glance: EU commissioners
21 Oct 04 |  Europe
EU row candidate stands down
30 Oct 04 |  Europe


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