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25th Sep 2022

Barroso bank job to face fresh EU scrutiny

  • EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly and ex-president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, in 2014. (Photo: European Parliament)

EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has launched an inquiry into the European Commission's handling of its former president's appointment to Goldman Sachs bank.

She launched the probe on Tuesday (28 February) after a petition by Commission staff urged the current chief, Jean-Claude Juncker to take "exemplary measures" against his predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso.

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The petition, signed by 152,000, said Barroso’s decision to join the bank, which played dirty tricks in EU bank and sovereign debt crises, “dishonours the European civil service and the European Union as a whole”.

Staff handed over the signatures in October 2016 after overcoming an attempt by security guards to block them from entering their own workplace.

The commission never replied to their letter, however.

The malcontents then went to O’Reilly, who is responsible for investigating maladministration.

In a letter dated 24 February, she asked Juncker to reply to the petition and to shed light on whether the Commission took a "reasoned decision" on Barroso.

Juncker was asked to reply by 31 March.

O'Reilly also plans to look at the Commission’s internal ethics panel, Ahec, which said Barroso had not broken EU rules.

"Any understanding of the approach adopted by the commission in such cases will necessarily require an understanding of the role of the Ahec and of how it conducts its assessments,” she said in her letter.

Its critics say Ahec is made up of EU insiders and lacks teeth.

The Commission last year sharpened its code of conduct, extending the "cooling-off" periods in which former top officials must seek permission to take up a new job.

Goldman Sachs traded complex financial instruments called subprime mortgages, helping to cause the 2007 global financial crisis.

It also helped Greece to conceal the size of its debt before it joined the eurozone.

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