It was a hot day in August 2004, and I was sitting around a table munching seafood with a few journalists and the man who had just been appointed the next president of the European Commission. The meeting took place in a stuffy room on the first floor of an Italian restaurant, and was billed as Jose Manuel Barroso’s first meeting with the Brussels press.I remember that he barely touched his lightly-grilled squid, fish and prawns. Instead, he talked and talked – with confidence, drive and considerable eloquence – about his priorities as the new head of the EU executive. Again and again, Barroso insisted he would put economic reforms at the heart of his tenure, slash red tape and stimulate competition. He stressed the importance of the Lisbon Agenda – the ambitious reform package designed to make Europe the most competitive economy in the world by the end of the decade.
In one sentence: his would be a pro-business Commission.