Who are EU?

The president of the European Commission may not have the international star power of the president of the United States or even the U.N. secretary-general. But, as the head of the executive arm of the European Union (EU), the post commands the bully pulpit of an organization that affects the lives of 450 million people. ...

The president of the European Commission may not have the international star power of the president of the United States or even the U.N. secretary-general. But, as the head of the executive arm of the European Union (EU), the post commands the bully pulpit of an organization that affects the lives of 450 million people.

Selecting a candidate to satisfy all member countries was even more difficult than usual this summer in an EU that has recently expanded to 25 nations and is still healing divisions over the war in Iraq. European leaders finally found a compromise in then Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso, who resigned to take the job. A Maoist student-activist turned center-right statesman, Barroso represents a third way. He supported the war and has called himself a "great admirer" of the United States, but he assured the European Parliament that he hates American "arrogance."

Such seemingly contradictory statements have left the impression that Barroso tries to straddle every issue. But the new president has also taken a strong stand on some controversial issues. He is a fiscal hawk who imposed unpopular austerity measures in his own country when it breached EU budget guidelines. He also resisted proposals to slash the EU budget, saying it would be unfair to the union's poorer new members. And he has called on the European Parliament to help him resist the "diktat from founding countries," a not-so-veiled swipe at France and Germany, who have traditionally dominated EU decision making.

The president of the European Commission may not have the international star power of the president of the United States or even the U.N. secretary-general. But, as the head of the executive arm of the European Union (EU), the post commands the bully pulpit of an organization that affects the lives of 450 million people.

Selecting a candidate to satisfy all member countries was even more difficult than usual this summer in an EU that has recently expanded to 25 nations and is still healing divisions over the war in Iraq. European leaders finally found a compromise in then Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso, who resigned to take the job. A Maoist student-activist turned center-right statesman, Barroso represents a third way. He supported the war and has called himself a "great admirer" of the United States, but he assured the European Parliament that he hates American "arrogance."

Such seemingly contradictory statements have left the impression that Barroso tries to straddle every issue. But the new president has also taken a strong stand on some controversial issues. He is a fiscal hawk who imposed unpopular austerity measures in his own country when it breached EU budget guidelines. He also resisted proposals to slash the EU budget, saying it would be unfair to the union’s poorer new members. And he has called on the European Parliament to help him resist the "diktat from founding countries," a not-so-veiled swipe at France and Germany, who have traditionally dominated EU decision making.

Yet the word in Brussels is that the French and Germans will try to assert their authority by grabbing the plum commission jobs. The Germans want economic reform; the French, the internal market portfolio, which enforces the rules of the common market.

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