Friday

26th Apr 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

EU institutions want Facebook to relax its rules, to allow pan-European political groups to carry out EU-wide campaigns. Facebook has yet to implement the demands - posing questions on the extent to which Europe relies on the US tech firm.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us