As the new Barroso Commission finally gets down to work, an obvious question arises: has the turmoil of recent months strengthened or weakened the EU?

The question is prompted by the refrain from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Josep Borrell that the institutions have emerged in better shape.

Any assessment must take account of the way the crisis emerged and how it was resolved. And it is obvious that since Barroso started to form his team in July, there have been some errors in judgement.

Many member states limited his room for manoeuvre from the outset by offering him little choice and little time for discussion over their nominations.

Some of the nominations were less than judicious, too, geared to accommodating domestic political crises rather than finding the best person for the job. In particular, the substitution of Laszlo Kovacs for Peter Balasz probably cost Hungary the weighty regional policy portfolio. And the furore created by Rocco Buttiglione - and his subsequent fate - hardly need further comment now.

There are bound to be questions too over the quality of the advice that Barroso acted on when he tried to tough it out with the Parliament. His bruising encounter with the Parliament not only lost valuable time. His last-minute...

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