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Europe

Barroso Faces Tough Questions by MEPs

Former Portuguese Prime Minister José Barroso will face the first round of questioning by members of the European Parliament today as he seeks to convince them that he is the right man for Europe's top job.

Nominated to be European Commission President by EU leaders last month, Barroso shot from relative obscurity as Portuguese leader into the Brussels limelight. Today, however, his nomination has come to the crunch as MEPs flex their political muscles and test his credentials. First up are the Socialists who are reportedly very split on his suitability. They are set to question him on his tough economic policies as he forced his country to tighten its belt and adhere to the rules of the stability pact. They are also likely to question him on his support for the Iraq war. Their hostility on this issue will be shared by the Greens who will be grilling Barroso later on Tuesday. A general complaint, which these hearings may put to rights, is that the Portuguese is an unknown on the European stage; no one is quite sure how he stands on European issues. On Wednesday, Barroso will be given a hearing by the largest group in the Parliament - the centre-right EPP. However, this group is generally well-disposed to him because he comes from their political ranks. The European Parliament as a whole will vote on Barroso on 22 July in a secret ballot. Barroso needs to get a simple majority in the 732-seat parliament. If the Socialists and the Centre-right were to vote in favour of him, they would account for 470 votes. If he is supported by Parliament next week, Mr Barroso will take up the post as Commission President in November. As president, he will oversee the Brussels executive which proposes EU laws and ensures that member states implement them. (EUobserver.com)

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