THE new President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, had a bruising introduction to his job last autumn when two of his nominations for Commisioners were challenged by the European Parliament and one of them, the Italian Rocco Buttiglione with conservative views on the family and homosexuality, felt obliged to withdraw his candidacy.
Since then Mr Barroso, a former prime minister of Portugal, has kept a low profile although he was active behind the scenes at the December EU Summit in securing agreement on the negotiation of Turkey's bid to join the EU. This week, however, Mr Barroso has emerged into the media limelight with interviews in leading journals which provide an insight into the way he intends to direct his Presidency. There will be a warm welcome for his stated determination to give priority to the EU's economic reform programme launched four years ago, but which has since stalled partly because of economic stagnation in France and Germany and partly because of the inability of the previous President, Roman Prodi, to provide the necessary dynamic leadership. Mr Barroso makes the basic point that higher economic growth is the prerequiste of achievement of the EU's social and environmental goals. Part of his drive for economic progress is Mr Barroso's insistence that all new regulatory proposals within the Commission should be tested on their contribution to competitiveness.
Among the President Barroso's other priorities is the creation of a European diplomatic service which he believes is necessary to increase the EU's visibility and effectiveness internationally but which critics of the EU will probably see as further evidence of the supra-national ambitions of the European Union.