Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

Analysis

Juncker's Barrosogate response is too little, too late

  • Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (l) unveiling a portrait of Jose Manuel Barroso (r).

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will ask his team to consider tightening the rules on former members’ conduct during a college meeting next week (16 November).

But the move already seems unlikely to calm a four-month long row over the handling of his predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso, who landed a top job with US investment bank Goldman Sachs last July.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Juncker wants the college to double the spell during which commission ex-bosses have to seek permission for post-office employment to three years.

The college could also extend the so-called cooling-off period for other ex-commissioners from 18 to 24 months.

All 28 commissioners have to agree before the rules can be changed.

”If they don’t, I will declare publicly that I’m not taking up a job with a bank or any other company for three years,” Juncker vowed in a recent interview with Belgian daily Le Soir.

The Luxembourg politician added that he may have taken too long to say what he was "morally thinking".

”But I had some difficulty accepting that my commission is criticised for the behaviour of forerunners,” he said.

Except that critics hold him accountable for his own failures, including his initial lack of action on Barroso.

For weeks, Juncker insisted that Barroso followed the rules. It took him two months to refer his predecessor’s case to an internal ethics panel, and that only happened after a suggestion by European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.

He ignored calls from MEPs, including his friend Martin Schulz, who said a 10-year cooling-off period would be more appropriate for ex-presidents.

He refused to meet transparency groups and the commission’s own employees when they tried to hand over two petitions asking for strong measures to be taken against Barroso.

News of dubious behaviour by other members of the Barroso team - most famously Neelie Kroes, who failed to declare directorship of an offshore company in Bahamas - added fuel to the fire.

Yet Juncker took action only after one of his favourite papers, the pro-European Le Soir, dedicated a dossier to his shortcomings and said the commission was ”in denial”.

He called the Belgian daily to present his proposals. But these are already falling short of expectations.

The Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a transparency group, called it a ”face-saving exercise” that wouldn’t stop the next ethics scandal.

The proposal didn’t even add up with the commission’s own rules, Hungarian Green MEP Benedek Javor remarked.

”Since ex-commissioners have the right to receive a transitional allowance for up to three years, I believe the cooling-off period should be at least that long,” Javor told this website.

”It does nothing to solve the Barroso case,” said an EU official from the petition-making committee, saying that the ex-boss must face sanctions.

”We have had enough of half-measures and muffled statements in the media. Only a bold statement would stay with public opinion,” the EU employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told this website.

Amid Juncker’s reluctance to act against his peers, and falling trust in the president’s judgement, critics including Belgian liberal MEP Gerard Deprez have asked him to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

”We aren't asking for anything difficult,” Deprez told this website.

”The court can clarify what it means to act with integrity and discretion both during and after their term of office,” Deprez said, ”and finally put an end to the poisoning of the EU image.”

He has helped to organise a written declaration asking for a referral, so far signed by 124 MEPs.

Commission tightens rules after Barrosogate

The European Commission has proposed tighter rules for its members after their term finishes, amid a long-lasting row over Jose Manuel Barroso's job at Goldman Sachs.

Commission edited out Juncker gaffe

A European Commission spokeswoman has defended the practice of editing online transcripts of speeches to remove controversial comments.

Opinion

Requiem for a European dream

The solution to the EU's woes could lie in a return to the pre-1992 version of the bloc, rather than creating an inner circle of European integration.

Magazine

Barrosogate and the revolt of public opinion

Just days after Britain's vote to leave the EU, the bloc was rocked by the news that commission ex-president, Jose Manuel Barroso, had landed a top job with Goldman Sachs.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  2. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  3. EU lobby register still riddled with errors
  4. Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk
  5. More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies
  6. Study: EU electricity transition sped into high gear in 2022
  7. Russia and China weaponised pandemic to sow distrust, MEPs hear
  8. Frontex to spend €100m on returning migrants this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us