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Europe

Barroso Reticent on Buttiglione

Incoming European Commission President Jose Barroso appears to have withdrawn his full support from the controversial future Italian commissioner.

At a meeting in Dublin on Monday, Barroso refused to repeat an earlier statement that Rocco Buttiglione was "perfectly fit" for the post of justice and home affairs commissioner, according to the Irish Times. Barroso’s reticence was also relayed via his spokeswoman in Brussels. "Barroso continues to be confident that at the end of this process, his team can receive the approval of the European Parliament," said Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, who refused to clarify whether this would include Buttiglione and his current portfolio. The Italian Commissioner, a conservative Catholic, has hardly left the news lately following a series of controversial comments on gays, women and marriage, and single mothers. His nomination has already been rejected by a Committee in the European Parliament -- and Socialists and Liberal MEPs are now demanding that, at the very least, Buttiglione is given a new portfolio. According to Parliament sources, there are a few options on the table. One would be make sure that issues infringing on Article 13 of the Treaty, which deals with discrimination based on sex, religion and sexual orientation, do not fall in Buttiglione's remit. However, according to one senior MEP, this would be the "least satisfactory" option as Buttiglione would still be under constant scrutiny for everything he said for the next five years. Another option, which would gain greater support from liberals and left MEPs, would be a direct swap of portfolios. One name that has cropped up for such an exchange would be with French Commissioner Jacques Barrot, who is to be in charge of transport. Both men belong to the same center-right political family.

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