Conservative lawyer an ex-Maoist communist


EU/PORTUGAL: Mr José Manuel Durão Barroso is a former communist of the Chinese Maoist variety, who turned into a free marketeer and backer of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The Prime Minister of Portugal has said that as President of the Commission, he aims to blend European integration with co-operation with the United States.

The multilingual 48-year-old conservative lawyer likes to stress his pragmatism and moderation, but political opponents depict him as a pro-American free-marketeer who imposed such severe austerity on his overspent country on taking office in 2002 that it worsened a recession.

The former Maoist student activist has a good relationship with President Bush and organised an eve-of-war summit of Bush and key European allies in the Azores.

But he was cautious about engaging Portuguese troops, although the country has a small force of police in Iraq.

"The transatlantic relationship must be revitalised. This is . . . a task for political decision-makers on both sides of the ocean we share," Mr Barroso said in a speech in October 2003. "Our planet will be much better if Europe and the United States work together and worse off if this doesn't happen."

Elected prime minister two years ago, the former foreign minister imposed tough budget restrictions after Portugal breached EU deficit limits. Voters punished his centre-right party in European Parliament elections this month, giving the opposition Socialists a clear victory.

Mr Barroso was born into a middle- class Lisbon family. He studied law and his dalliance with Maoism, the brand of communism developed by Mao Zedong, the late dictator of China and chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, came after the Portuguese revolution that toppled the rightist dictatorship there in 1974.

Six years later he joined the confusingly named Social Democratic Party - actually the more conservative of Portugal's two mainstream political parties - as a postgraduate political science student at Geneva University.

He is married with three children. - (Reuters)