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Illegal migration not among Barroso's top priorities

The pressing problem of immigration is not among Josè Manuel Barroso's top priorities in his second five-year term as President of the European Commission.

Only a few lines have been dedicated to the issue in his agenda, set out in a 41-page document sent to MEPs yesterday to try and win their support for a second mandate. And the integration of migrants seems to be given priority over fighting the flow of illegal immigrants from North Africa to the Southern European member states.

His manifesto put the emphasis on taking the bloc "out of the current economic crisis and tackling rising unemployment" as one of the main challenges facing the EU.

Though also considered to be "one of the greatest challenges facing the EU in the coming years", managing migration flows will just be an issue of consolidation, according to Mr Barroso's programme. It does not give any details of any new initiative in the field.

"The next five years should see the development and consolidation of a true common immigration policy, set in the long-term vision that emphasises respect for fundamental rights and human dignity," the document states.

At the same time, preventing illegal immigration is only seen as a "counterpart to the development of a common policy on legal migration," which includes the integration of migrants and matching the needs of the labour markets.

Asked to state why tackling illegal immigration was not given more importance in Mr Barroso's manifesto, an EU official close to his cabinet said that "the document does not go into all the details". However, he stressed that problems associated with migration would be given priority under a new Commission headed by Mr Barroso.

In his political programme, Mr Barroso highlights economic and social policies to be the most important items of his work plan, particularly the issue of soaring unemployment. He said the problem was bigger when compared to five years ago when he started his first mandate as Commission President because the EU had been creating new jobs until the economic crisis struck.

The document also calls for "a stronger focus on social dimensions in Europe at all levels of decision-making".

Mr Barroso said that if the EU worked together to devise responses to the many challenges it faced, it could achieve "global leadership". Otherwise, he said, it risked being marginalised. "Europeans have to face challenges together or else we slide towards irrelevance."

The former Portuguese Prime Minister said the priorities were to identify new sources of sustainable growth and stressed the importance of open markets that needed to be effectively regulated. He said the EU should integrate its different policy priorities, giving the example of the fight against climate change, which, he said, should be used to modernise the EU's industrial base by switching to a low-carbon economy and taking the lead in environmental technologies.

Already given the nod for a second term by the 27 member states last June, Mr Barroso now needs the support of the European Parliament.

While he can already count on the support of 265 members of the European People's Party group, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) have issued their own lists of demands that Mr Barroso should address in return for their support. S&D want a new employment pact and a new economic recovery plan while ALDE wants a single financial markets supervisor and a European commissioner for fundamental rights.

Mr Barroso is scheduled to meet the EP's political groups next week. It will only be after these meetings that the EP will decide when to hold the crucial vote on Mr Barroso's re-appointment.

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