A compromise deal to save the next European Commission was today rejected by European parliament leaders who want an anti-gay member of the new team axed.
Incoming EC President Jose Manuel Barroso offered the deal aimed at appeasing European Parliament leaders who have threatened to veto his 24 member team unless he removes a conservative Italian nominee for justice commissioner.
At a joint meeting with parliamentary leaders in Brussels, Barroso produced a letter from Italy’s Rocco Buttiglione in which the designate justice commissioner said he still planned to take up the post but offered to step aside whenever “a conflict might arise between my conscience and my duty as commissioner”.
But the powerful Socialist group rejected this as insufficient and continued to lead the opposition against Buttiglione. It was joined by Greens, Communists and Independents in the parliament.
“This situation remains unacceptable,” said socialist leader Martin Schulz.
MEPs objected to Buttiglione because of his contentious remarks about marriage, single mothers and homosexuality, which he called “a sin”.
Barroso met European Parliament President Josep Borrell and eight party leaders behind closed doors to resolve the stand-off, which could throw the EU into unprecedented institutional turmoil.
It was unclear whether Barroso’s offered compromise would suffice to stave off a crisis when the full Parliament votes on the approval of the commission next week, but opposition seemed steadfast.
The European Parliament can only reject the entire European Commission and not individual nominees.
The backing of the 200-member Socialist group and the 88 member Liberal Democrat group is considered vital for Barroso to win the October 27 vote and start his term on November 1.
The European People’s Party, which backs Buttiglione, is the largest group in the assembly with 268 members.
“We should not have a crisis,” said EPP leader Hans-Gert Poettering. “I ask all members of parliament to be tolerant to everyone whether they are Christians or Muslims.”