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Portuguese Prime Minister to Head EU Commission - 2004-06-29

The European Union has formally named Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso to be president of the powerful executive commission. The move ends a long a bitter battle within the EU to find a compromise candidate for the 25-nation bloc.

The Commission presidency is a sensitive post. While EU nations in theory say there is a need for a strong Commission to develop policies and enforce EU rules, in practice, they want someone who will take direction from the individual governments.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso seems to fit that bill, and, analysts say, the fact that he is one of the least known heads of governmen helped.

On economic policy he is viewed as a liberal and has a reputation as a market-oriented reformer who imposed tough austerity measures on his own country. He also favors gradual European integration along with concern for the needs of small member states that make up the majority of EU nations.

On foreign policy, he was criticized at home for siding with the United States and Britain on the Iraq war, rather than France and Germany.

Mr. Barroso said he was honored to be named to the post and vowed to work for a Europe Union that is respected and appreciated by its citizens. "I intend to assume my functions with a great deal of realism and enthusiasm, but also with a touch of ambition," he said. "I think it is not incompatible to have a great ambition and to be pragmatic about the way to fulfill that ambition. This I find indispensable to the pursuit of the European dream."

He was chosen after EU leaders rejected Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, and Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncke, who had wide E.U. support, declined the job. A number of other candidates were also considered.

Mr. Barroso's nomination must still be approved by the European Parliament in a vote expected in July. He replaces Romano Prodi, an Italian whose five-year term ends in October.