BBC NEWS | Europe | Profile: Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK
Profile: Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
Mr Durao Barroso supported the US-led war in Iraq
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the man nominated to be the new president of the European Commission, has long been seen as a prodigy in Portuguese politics.

He won his first senior government post aged just 29, going on to serve as foreign affairs minister and later - in April 2002 - becoming prime minister.

Mr Durao Barroso is a convinced European - fluent in several languages - and was seen as one of only a few leaders capable of winning the backing of all 25 member states in the bloc.

Mr Durao Barroso supported the war in Iraq and provided the venue for talks between US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Azores on the eve of the conflict, thus guaranteeing his approval by the likes of Britain and Italy.

We have a problem as far as European experience is concerned and we have a problem as far as social engagement is concerned
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Leader of the Party of European Socialists
But he remained on good terms with the Franco-German camp and had the support of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

He is unpopular at home after an austerity programme to reduce the country's budget deficit under EU's Stability and Growth Pact.

But he is a consensus politician, and managed to hold together his coalition while driving through the unpopular reforms, says the BBC's John Moylan.

He has grown a thick political skin, sticking to his views whatever public opinion suggests, correspondents say.

While EU leaders rubber-stamped his appointment on Tuesday, the European Parliament must approve him too - and some have already raised questions about his suitability for the job.

"We have a problem as far as European experience is concerned and we have a problem as far as social engagement is concerned. That's why we are saying to the European Council: 'Take another round, reconsider your evaluation and tell us what you have decided'," says Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, leader of the Party of European Socialists, the second largest group in the Parliament.

Radical politics

In his student days, Mr Durao Barroso embraced left-wing politics, but in 1980 he joined the centre-right Social Democratic Party, which he now leads.

He is said to have become involved in radical student politics after seeing one of his favourite teachers beaten during the regime of Marcello Caetano (the successor of dictator Antonio Salazar), which ended with the 1974 revolution.

"He has travelled across the political spectrum in his career from being at one time a far-left Maoist political militant to being a centre-right prime minister who followed very orthodox free market policies - and who perhaps achieved some international notoriety or reputation when he hosted the Azores summit," John Palmer, political director of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, told the BBC.

In 1991 he mediated talks which led to a temporary ceasefire in the civil war in Angola - a former Portuguese colony.

Mr Durao Barroso, a lawyer by profession, is married and has three children.

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