José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, put on a suspiciously big-time press conference today to launch what were really no more than some modest proposals to standardise the European defence industry.

On the podium with him at the Berlaymont, and you’d have to ask why, since they ended up looking like backing singers, were Michel Barnier, commissioner for the internal market, and Antonio Tajani, commissioner for industry. One of Barroso’s 24-hour on-call film crews was under his podium, of course, plus news broadcasting crews, and as good a turnout of the Brussels press corps as you could expect this close to beach time.

All this to repeat the usual call to standardise the defence sector?

Not everyone thought so. First question out of the press, after Barroso had made his pitch about needing to eliminate the duplications of programmes: would this announcement have anything to do with the fact that ‘another organisation across town’ – Nato – is looking for a new secretary general?

Because of course the rumours around Brussels are that, ever since Barroso figured out last year that he wasn’t going to be given an unprecedented third term as president, he has been pitching for the Nato job.

So, was he pitching? Was that why he was making a full-cast performance of his call today for ‘more defence cooperation?’

‘This has nothing to do with my future,’ he insisted. ‘What I do can do or not do in future is simply speculative.’

Sounds like a ‘Yes’ to me.

Tags: Defence, Jose Mauel Barroso, NATO