On Thursday 17 June, EU leaders met to decide who will be the next Commission President.
Bertie Ahern, Irish prime minister and current head of the EU, proposed Guy Verhofstadt (the current Prime Minister of Belgium and politically from the PPE group) also supported by the French and German governments. However his strong position against the war in Iraq and his clear refusal to mention God in the new Treaty resulted in opposition by UK, Italy and Poland.
Silvio Berlusconi proposed Chris Patten (EU’s external relations Commissioner, British conservative), as the favourite for the centre-right European People’s Party. Italy has been chosen to put forward the name because it had to come from a big country, as France is not likely to support this candidate.
The Irish Presidency said that they would prefer to decide about the next President of the Commission by consensus, however, technically leaders can finalise the issue using qualified majority voting.
After long discussions on Thursday, two new names appeared on the table: Jose Manuel Durćo Barroso (Prime Minister of Portugal, conservative) and Michel Barnier (Foreign Minister of France, conservative).
Mr Barroso may not be supported by Germany and France because he met Bush, Blair and Aznar right before the war in Irak.
On the other hand, Mr Barnier may not get the positive vote of the UK.
Fears of a lack of consensus had suggested that another meeting would be convened in July to deal with this issue. But once again, the Irish Presidency insisted in the need to have a name by the end of the meeting on 18 June 2004.
However, it must take place before 20 July when the new European Parliament has its first plenary session and decides whether to accept the Commission candidate.