Barroso Overboard?

BRUSSELS – It is time for José Manuel Barroso to start selling himself. His chances of being re-appointed as President of the European Commission depend on the case he makes.

Until the global financial crisis broke, Barroso looked fairly certain to get a second five-year term. Now, it is becoming increasingly hard to find diplomats or policymakers who support him. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is said to have been disappointed by Barroso’s performance during last autumn's financial meltdown, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also seems to have fallen silent on the matter of his future.

No one doubts that Barroso is in an awkward position. The European Commission has few powers of its own with which to confront the recession as it spreads throughout the European Union; most powers belong to the European Central Bank. But the Commission does have a voice with which to rally people, and it is for their silence that Barroso and his fellow commissioners are being rebuked.

The perceived lack of leadership from the Commission at this time of deepening economic gloom is just the tip of the iceberg. The events of recent months have crystallized more deep-seated concerns.