Barroso: "Europe is not the cause of the crisis - it's part of the solution"

After two mandates and 10 years as the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso is ready to pass the torch on to Jean- Claude Juncker. We talked to the European Commission President just after his speech in plenary on Tuesday 21 October, in which he looked back at his second term. Barroso said that the crisis wasn't caused by the EU but by financial markets acting irresponsibly and some countries spending excessively.

Photo 1) Interview with President of the European Commission Josè Manuel Barroso
José Manuel Barroso

Your second mandate was marked by the crisis and austerity. You talked about being careful about being pessimistic about Europe. How do you see this today?

I think it is important for Europeans to know that the crisis was not created by Europe. The crisis was created by the irresponsible behaviour of financial markets and also by the irresponsible behaviour of governments that accumulated excessive debt. Europe was not the cause of the crisis. Europe is part of the solution.

The European Commission, together with the European Parliament but also of course with the Council, have been working all these years to find a solution. But the European Union is only a part of Europe. We cannot take all the responsibility for all that happens - good of bad - in Europe. I believe we have done everything to bring stability back to Europe, to create conditions for growth.

Now if you ask me, would you like to have more measures to stimulate investment, then yes I would and I have been proposing this. The Parliament has supported me when we called for a more ambitious budget, but we have to respect the will of all our countries. I think the criticism that the European Union has not done everything that was possible to tackle the crisis is completely unfair and not correct.

What would you have done differently if you could start over?

I have learned a lot and there are many things I could have done differently. Everything we did, we did with the best of intentions and we were putting the right proposals with the information we had at the time. If afterwards not all of them could be adopted, I cannot take that responsibility since the European Union is not only the European Commission. Populists say that the European Commission decides everything in Brussels, but this is false. We take the initiative but the decisions have to be taken by the European Parliament and by the governments of Europe and in some cases governments took too much time or they were not ready for more ambition. I think that what we have done was basically right and I stand by that.

Photo 2) President of the European Commission Josè Manuel Barroso during the speech on the review on Barroso II Commission
Josè Manuel Barroso during his speech at the European Parliament

How would you describe the relationship between the Parliament and the Commission over the last 10 years?

The Parliament is a very important piece of our European Union. I respect it very much. Some political forces have to choose if they want to be just a protest movement or part of the European governance. There were very difficult moments in the last 10 years, but in the end we got all the compromises needed and I would like to thank the European Parliament for that.

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