By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
Speculation is growing in Europe over Prime Minister David Cameron’s rumoured backing of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso should he make a bid to become the next head of Nato.
For months there has been media speculation that Mr Barroso is keen to be the next general secretary of Nato after Anders Fogh Rasmussen relinquishes the post in September this year.
Now, Mr Cameron is rumoured to have pledged backing for Mr Barroso, a move which could give any bid the current EC president makes for the role significantly more weight.
Speculation further increased after Mr Barroso appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday and claimed Scotland would find it “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to find the support of fellow members of the EU to maintain membership in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum.
In a blog for Channel 4 News about Mr Barroso’s comments on Scotland’s EU membership, political editor Gary Gibbon hinted that the warm relationship between Mr Barroso and Mr Cameron may be a sign of Mr Barroso lining up his support as he prepares to leave his term of office as President of the EU Commission.
“Mr Barroso’s strident message on Scotland slightly obscured a life-line he threw to David Cameron on EU renegotiation,” Gibbon wrote. “He is still saying a treaty must happen and that David Cameron’s timetable of getting one by 2017 isn’t bonkers.
“Not everyone agrees, though Mr Cameron might get a supportive remark from Chancellor Merkel when she visits the UK soon. You’re bound to wonder though if Chancellor Merkel is simply trying to avoid rocking the boat and if President Barroso, whose term of office ends soon, has his eye on getting nominations from national governments for another big job – Nato boss maybe? He’s never ruled it out.”
Mr Barroso has not yet confirmed whether or not he is interested in the general secretary post at Nato but has not denied it when questioned. During a presentation of a European Commission proposal to boost efficiency in the European defence industry in July last year, Mr Barroso said: “This communication has nothing to do with my future.
“It has to do with the present of the European Commission that has decided to give its contribution to what is an extremely important action at European level. So any kind of linkage between this communication and what I can or not do in the future is simply a speculation.”
At the time, M.E. Synon in The Spectator wrote: “… of course the rumours around Brussels are that, ever since Barroso figured out last year that he wasn’t going to be given an unprecedented third term as president, he has been pitching for the Nato job.”
Mr Barroso’s office declined to offer any evidence for Mr Barroso’s claim about Scotland’s EU membership when approached by Newsnet Scotland, saying only: “President Barroso was stating, as has been before, that in accordance with Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty any new member state applying would need the unanimous agreement of all current EU member states.”