Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 17:58 UK

Barroso faces EU 'question time'

By Naomi Grimley
BBC News, Strasbourg

Jose Manuel Barroso, file pic from October 2009
An EU spokesman admits the drama of the session is unlikely to rival PMQs

The European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, has faced a grilling by MEPs in a first question and answer session in Strasbourg.

The Q&A session was based on Prime Minister's Questions in the British House of Commons.

Representatives of the parliament's main groupings each had the chance to ask any question they wanted.

MEPs are hoping the sessions will liven up the parliament's proceedings and add a touch of spontaneity.

As much as they may complain about the "Punch and Judy" nature of Prime Minister's Question Time, British MPs know the weekly session at Westminster is envied in many other countries.

Elements of theatre

This Q&A session in the European Parliament was the first of around 12 to take place every year - each time MEPs meet in Strasbourg.

Isn't this a rather wonderful organisation for retired, clapped-out ex-premiers?
Nigel Farage
UK Independence Party

The format means Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, and of the Independence/ Democracy group in the European Parliament, will play a regular role.

Mr Farage has welcomed the move, saying that in the past the parliament has been far too sterile. But he admits that it is difficult to get the element of theatre seen in the UK House of Commons.

"You've got 22 official languages, that's the first problem," said Mr Farage.

During the session, his question to Mr Barroso was: "Isn't this a rather wonderful organisation for retired, clapped-out ex-premiers?"

After the Q&A, Mr Barroso explained why there had not been much of the sparring he had hoped to see.

"It's extremely difficult for me to put all my arguments in one minute answers", he said. "Especially because most of the time I'm not speaking my own language."

Mr Barroso's spokesman admitted the sessions would not quite rival the drama of Prime Minister's Questions.

But the hope is that it will increase accountability - and perhaps help some MEPs achieve a more prominent place in the news.

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