It was a dull speech this year – the State of the Union address by the Commission
president José Manuel Barroso.
You´ve heard it all before:
´Bla, bla…´challenging times …´
´Bla, bla…have to remain vigilant…´
´Bla, bla…speed up reform pace…´
And then Barroso “harks back to the days of WW1”, wrote the bored-to-death-reporter of the Guardian.
Most EU journalists – condemned to sit through it to listen out for any news –
turned their attention to their smartphones or blackberry´s after a third of
the speech. The ones streaming the speech and listening at home went for coffee
half way through or picked up the phone to make that phone call they had been
Then it was the turn of the MEPs and they came down hard on him– as they always
do – for being too optimistic, too insensitive to people´s suffering, not
ambitious enough on climate change.
Not much to write home about.
Not many hang around to the very end of the event, the last bit when Mr Barroso
answers the MEPs.
They should have.
This is when Mr Barroso suddenly spoke out, waved his arms about, went up in
falsetto and almost spat at the MEPs.
He started out with having a go at Mr Callahan (British Tory and group leader
of the European Conservatives and Reformists), being almost rude.
“Well Mr Callahan, let me tell you very frankly. Even if you had been
interested in the job as the President of the European Commission, you wouldn´t
have a chance to get it.”
So Mr Callahan believes he is going to win British votes with his anti-Europe
rhetoric, not above fraternizing with the extreme EU critics? Think again, said
“When it comes to being against Europe, people prefer to vote for the original,
not the copy.”
The original himself, Nigel Farage of the Ukip, was taken to task as well.
“I find it incredible that a party leader in this parliament can claim that
climate change is not happening.”
“It´s nonsense!”, and so says 99 percent of the scientists, reminded Mr
“…but you can always find somebody paid to say differently…”
And while we´re on the subject of climate change, Mrs Harms of the Green group
needed to be put in place:
“We´ve done zero on climate change?! Come on! Let´s be real! Europe is leading
on climate change.”
By the way, that talk about not doing enough on car emissions…:
“If you´re not satisfied, then talk to the governments! Not the Commission!”
…because who shoots down the ambitious proposals of the Commission?, – well,
the national governments, obviously.
Now Mr Barroso got really hot under the collar, spitting out his words:
“Social matters, Mr Swoboda. Beggars. You say I have not seen that reality?
Coming from the country that I do, I have not seen poverty?!”
Not only seen it, campaigned against it, fought national governments wanting to
wipe out EU efforts to combat poverty and help the most deprived with the few
instruments that the European institutions have.
Oh, and on that subject, do give up the blame-game where Europe is responsible
for all evils, do!
“Let´s be honest here, who is responsible for unemployment policies? The
national governments are!”
Turning to the crisis but sticking to the same theme – who is responsible for
the difficulties of Europe? Is Greece a victim of the EU?
“False! Completely!”, erupts Mr Barroso and puts us right:
“Greece is the victim of an irresponsible Greek government!”
So there. The EU has supported Greece, not shoved it into economic
difficulties. All the debt ridden European countries would be in a much worse
shape, suffering a lot more without European support.
“Europe has not created the crisis. Europe is part of the solution, not the
“Let´s put the record straight!
And that was the main point of Mr Barroso´s outburst (a part from releasing
some pent-up frustrations) – someone has to speak up for Europe. If
pro-Europeans as well as ´constructive´ people – as Mr Barroso chose to call
them – are going to tell a story only of European misfortunes and mistakes,
thinking this will appeal to voters, we may as well forget the whole idea of
working together over borders.
“Make the case for Europe!”, the Commission President almost squeaked in his falsetto.
Quite right, Mr President.
And if you had shouted out this message with as much passion from the very
beginning, instead of delivering a sensible, really boring speech, a lot more
people would have heard you.