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September 17, 2009

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Barroso wins second Europe term but misgivings persist

THE European Parliament gave Jose Manuel Barroso another five-year term as European Commission president yesterday, but its vote reflected lingering misgivings about the conservative former Portuguese premier.

In his second mandate as the powerful executive who drafts EU-wide legislation and ensures governments obey it, Barroso vowed to respond to the global economic crisis by pushing for changes in the financial sector and its "unethical bonuses" and helping to steer Europe out of its recession.

"The first concern of the European citizens is unemployment and the economic crisis," he told reporters in Strasbourg, eastern France, after the 736-member European Union assembly voted 382 to 219, with 117 abstentions, to reappoint him European Commission president.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU presidency, said Barroso's reappointment "gives us the stability needed for fully focusing on important challenges such as the economic crisis and climate change."

The leaders of the 27 EU nations nominated Barroso, 53, for a second term in June after European Parliament elections saw gains for conservative forces in some of Europe's largest economies - an outcome seen as a vindication of company bailouts and fiscal stimulus packages to combat the recession.

The choice was not warmly endorsed by the EU assembly where many see him as being in the pocket of EU governments.

Ahead of the vote, the head of its 184 socialists, Martin Schulz, said his group would not back Barroso, citing his weak leadership in protecting EU jobs amid the worst economic crisis in decades.

The ballot was secret, but comments by leaders suggested Barroso won the backing of an alliance of Christian Democrats, Liberals and EU-critical Conservatives, which include two dozen British Tories who normally disdain the sort of European economic and political integration that Barroso supports.

"Whilst not perfect, (Barroso) remains the best man for the job," said Tory leader Timothy Kirkhope.

In all, 336 of the 736 European Parliament members - almost 46 percent of the assembly - voted against Barroso or abstained.


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