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Europe

Outgoing EU Chief Takes Stock

As his term as EU executive head comes to an end, Romano Prodi called the EU's efforts to catch up economically with the United States "a big failure."

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European Commission head Prodi lamented nations blocking progress

The European Union aim to make Europe the most competitive economy in the world had so far been a "big failure" Prodi said in an interview in the Financial Times (FT) on Monday.

"You can't have unanimity in all economic areas, or if you do, you must accept the failure of Lisbon," he said. "Lisbon is a big failure."

EU country leaders in 2000 in Lisbon set the goal of surpassing the United States and making the bloc the most competitive economy by 2010.

Prodi blamed countries for employing national vetoes that block progress.

According to the FT, Prodi's comments came in response to a scathing review completed by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok which is set to be presented to EU leaders at a Nov. 5 summit. Kok's report purportedly warns that the EU is actually falling even further behind the United States since launching plans in Lisbon to surpass the US.

Prodi prepared to stay

Jose Manuel Barroso

Former Portuguese Premier Jose Barroso has been jockeying to earn support for his commission choices.

In light of the continuing controversy over incoming Commission President Jose Barroso's choice of commissioners, Prodi made clear that he and his current team would stay in office if they were needed.

"I really hope that it will not be the case because it will be a difficult task, but ... we are ready for any emergency," Prodi told reporters in Brussels Monday.

Barroso's nomination of Rocco Buttiglione (photo, below) for justice chief has incensed many Socialist, Liberal and Green group members of the European Parliament who have taken offense at the Italian Catholic's views, particularly his dubbing homosexuality a sin and saying marriage exists to enable women to have children and be protected by a man.

Rocco Buttiglione in Brüssel

EU Commissioner designate for Justice, Freedom and Security Rocco Buttiglione is close to Pope John Paul II.

The European Parliament must approve Barroso's choices for his 24-member team as a whole for the new commission to begin work on Nov. 1. Parliament may not reject individual nominees.

It is still unclear which way the parliament will go when it votes on Wednesday. The Liberal parliamentary group, which planned to agree on their strategy Monday, could swing the vote in favor of Barroso's team.

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