It is just a year since Jose Manuel Barroso, in his first address to the European Parliament as Commission President-designate, spoke of the need to be "optimistic, visionary and courageous for the future", and to work "to guarantee prosperity, solidarity and security". He identified one of the main tasks of the President of the Commission as "to manage the dynamic consensus that Europe needs".

It was true then. It is all the more true now. It has not been a glorious twelve months of achievement. Declining growth has compromised prosperity. Persistent high unemployment and sharp divisions over social policy have not strengthened solidarity. And gaps have been revealed in security ranging from the London underground to stalled talks with Iran on nuclear proliferation.

Europe still needs a "dynamic consensus" - but neither the President of the Commission nor successive Council Presidencies have been able to deliver it. Instead, there is open talk - even from senior Commissioners - about a profound crisis of leadership and direction.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson recently offered a recipe focused on economics: the potential of the still-incomplete single market to bring productivity gains and higher growth; a strong common commercial policy so that European companies can develop and thrive in a world of...

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