Despite the election of a Spanish socialist to head the European Parliament, an IWP professor sees Europe as evenly split between the left and pro-U.S. center-right forces. He is cited in the July 26, 2004 Washington Times. The text of the story by Lisa Makson follows.
STRASBOURG, France — A Spanish socialist who opposed the U.S. war in Iraq and thinks that Europe must adopt a more decisive profile in world affairs has been elected president of the newly expanded European Parliament.
The selection of Josep Borrell Fontelles, a 57-year-old economist and engineer long active in Spain's leftist political circles, signals growing Spanish influence within the European Union and the prospect of a more assertive European approach to issues such as economic growth and the Middle East.
"I am European as much as I am Spanish and a Catalan," Mr. Borrell said in his acceptance speech on Tuesday. "I am not from the Old Europe, nor from the New Europe — simply a European who rejects these names that are destined to perpetuate our division."
In what was seen as a balancing act, the EU assembly on Thursday ratified the appointment of Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso as next president of the bloc's executive commission, succeeding Italy's Romano Prodi.
Mr. Barroso, who will run the European Union's day-to-day affairs, headed a conservative government in Lisbon, which strongly backed the war against Saddam Hussein. A majority of the parliament's leftist members voted against him.
Mr. Borrell, an ally of new Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Spain, won because of a power-sharing agreement between the two largest groups, the center-left Socialist bloc and the center-right conservative parties in the European Parliament. He likely will split the five-year term with German conservative Hans-Gert Pottering.
Mr. Borrell said he hoped to show the 450 million EU citizens, many of whom did not vote in last month's parliamentary elections, that the assembly can play a significant role in their lives.
It has power over business, transport, labor and environmental regulations; can dismiss the European Commission executives; and gives input on the European Union's $124 billion annual budget.
"Europeans will pay attention when they realize that the European Parliament does affect their lives," Mr. Borrell said.
The Spaniard said his "immediate priority" is the looming ratification battle over a new EU constitution, but he also made it clear that Europe should maintain its independence from Washington on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Islamic fundamentalism and the fight against terrorism.
"We ought to promise ourselves in this fight not to subordinate ourselves to the United States, out of respect for international law and human rights," he said.
Mr. Zapatero, who pulled Spanish troops out of the U.S.-led postwar mission in Iraq in March, campaigned tirelessly for Mr. Borrell and other Socialist candidates.
He was elected after the March subway bombings in Madrid, in which 191 persons died.
Spain has 54 seats in the expanded 732-member European Parliament, and the government's candidates grabbed 25 of those seats in June's vote.
"Other EU governments will not forget that Spain needs courting now that it has served as a swing state between the competing visions" of France and Germany on Europe's global role, said Robin Niblett, senior fellow in the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Europe program.
But Mr. Borrell's election should not be seen as a total loss for U.S. interests, said Institute of World Politics Professor J. Michael Waller, noting the backroom deal that will split his term with the more conservative Mr. Pottering.
Mr. Borrell's election "should not be seen as a continental snub of President George W. Bush on the liberation of Iraq."
"The less-than-stunning majority that elected him could not have been built without the promise that a more centrist and pro-U.S. politician would succeed him," Mr. Waller said.
•David R. Sands in Washington contributed to this article.