Barroso is now fighting for his political life - and coming under sustained fire from Sarkozy. He would have been fine if the Lisbon Treaty carve up had gone ahead as forseen. He could have stayed at the Commission while "balancing" appointments were made for the proposed Foreign Minister and President. But without those jobs to fill to balance the ticket, he could be out on his ear.
That's part of the reason the Commission are going to do some more supposedly "social" stuff.
The word on the
* More anti-discrimination legislation.
* A tightening up of the European Works Councils Directive
* The Health Services Directive (likely to be rebranded as the "Patient Mobility Directive".
* Maybe something on parental leave.
The most interesting stuff is probably the anti discrimination point. The focus is on the access to services side, rather than employment rights. That means things like insurance - no discrimination on things like age or sex.
That’s always controversial if there are rational reasons for insurers to do things (e.g. the furore a few years back when the EU tried to clamp down of cheaper car insurance for women - because they crash less.)
There are certainly some uncertainties about the current EU law on age discrimination. But the new proposal sounds like it might go further than just "tidying up."
The UK is certainly up for supporting it. Indeed, the UK may be preemptively carrying it out with its own legislation. In Parliament yesterday:
Ms Patricia Hewitt (Leicester, West) (Lab): May I warmly congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on a set of proposals that will come to be seen as a major landmark in the long march to equality? Will she also ensure that the Government do everything possible to support the French presidency in its attempt to get early agreement on proposals for a European framework directive on equality, which will set minimum standards for all European citizens, across the European Union?
Ms Harman: I can certainly assure my right hon. Friend that that will be the case. I pay tribute to our Members of the European Parliament, particularly Michael Cashman, for their pioneering work at European level.
A slightly random thought is that the UK Government may have another interest in all this. Unless they carefully dot all the "i"s and cross all the "t"s then the Government's plans to allow positive discrimination might potentially fall foul of anti-discrimination EU law... which would be "interesting". More in the next blog.