Monday

28th May 2018

EU watchdog seeks details on Barroso's bank job

  • Emily O'Reilly, the EU ombudsman, worried about the outrage caused by Barroso's appointment to Goldman Sachs. (Photo: European Union)

The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has asked European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for more details on his predecessor Jose Manuel Barroso's new job at Goldman Sachs.

In a public letter dated Monday (5 September), O’Reilly asked the commission chief what measures were taken to verify that the appointment abides by ethics obligations as laid down in the EU treaty.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Ex-commissioners must have the commission’s approval to take up positions during a “cooling off” period of 18 months after they step down. Barroso joined Goldman Sachs as a non-executive chairman and Brexit adviser in July, 20 months after leaving office.

The ombudsman said that “certain cases will not cease to be problematic simply because 18 months or longer has passed.”

“The appointment, which the commission has argued is in compliance with the code of conduct, raises question marks over the adequacy of the code itself,” the ombudsman said.

Barroso’s appointment to Goldman Sachs caused public outrage.

The US investment bank was involved in selling subprime mortgages - the financial instruments that caused the 2007 financial crisis.

It also helped Greece, for a fee worth hundreds of millions of euros, to conceal its debt figures through special financial operations before the country’s debt crisis became clear, prompting three EU bailouts.

“Mr Barroso’s move has generated concern at a very challenging time for the EU and particularly in relation to citizen trust in its institutions. This is a significant public interest issue and must be openly and comprehensively addressed by the commission,” O’Reilly wrote.

”The ‘right to work’ is not an unqualified one and must be balanced by the public right to an ethical administration”, she said.

The Wall Street trader is one of the US banks that could be hardest hit by Brexit.

O'Reilly asked how the commission planned to handle possible conflicts of interest between the bank's special Brexit adviser, Barroso, and the commission's special Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier - who was once a member of the Barroso commission.

The EU executive was given until 14 October to reply. The ombudsman's office said that the commission usually respects the deadlines.

When asked by journalists on Tuesday about O'Reilly's letter, commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said that Barroso's appointment was in line with EU rules, which he called ”the world's strictest".

When asked if the commission planned to change the rules, the spokesman recalled a previous statement by Juncker, where the commission president said that Barroso had followed the rules, but that "one has to choose one's employer well".

Winterstein did not elaborate on what Juncker meant in implying that Goldman Sachs was a poor choice.

He said all contacts between Barroso and Barnier would be recorded in the commission's "unique" transparency register.

More than 117,000 people have now signed a petition initiated by EU staff who were angered by Barroso’s appointment, but also by Juncker’s muted response.

A second petition, organised by NGOs, has gathered 62,000 signatures.

The petitions call for stronger measures against the former head of commission, including scrapping his pension rights. They also want to sharpen the conduct code by way of closing the revolving door between the EU executive and big business.

An EU staff union has also written to Juncker, saying that the appointment “can only provide further ammunition for populist and extremist europhobe propaganda”.

EU commission under fire over Barroso bank job

Barroso did not break any rules and the rules do not need changing, the EU commission said, after its former chief joined the bank that helped to break Greece at a turbulent time in Europe.

EU launches probe into Barroso ethics

Jean-Claude Juncker told EU ombudsman that his predecessor will be treated as just another lobbyist and will be subject to scrutiny by a special ethics committee.

Barroso had deeper ties to Goldman Sachs

The US bank made "confidential" suggestions on changes to EU policy changes during the former Commission chief's time in office, newly released documents reveal.

Visual Data

EU budget: Biggest cuts and increases

The European Parliament accused the EU Commission of not providing clear figures for a comparison of the proposed and the current EU budgets. We take a look at the main differences.

Opinion

EU budget must not fortify Europe at expense of peace

Given the European Commission new budget's heavy focus on migration, border management and security, many are asking whether the proposal will fortify Europe at the expense of its peace commitments.

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations