Monday

20th May 2019

EU staff blocked from delivering Barroso petition

  • NGOs organised a second petition to end the revolving door between EU top officials and business. (Photo: Aleksandra Eriksson)

The European Commission has refused to accept a petition drafted by EU employees urging it to end the “revolving door” between its top management and big business.

The appeal was launched after former commission president Jose Manuel Barroso landed a top job at US investment bank Goldman Sachs, and has now been signed by 152,000 people.

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

  • The European Commission didn't want to receive signatures to a petition by its own employees, calling for more stringent rules on EU top management. (Photo: Aleksandra Eriksson)

But security guards stopped the petitioners from entering commission headquarters on Wednesday (12 October).

A delegation from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU) received the same treatment when trying to deliver a similar petition, signed by 63,000 people, moments later.

The two petitions have called for strong measures to be taken against Barroso, whose new employers were heavily implicated in both the global and the Greek financial crises.

They want to see Barroso’s pension rights forfeited and EU rules on the limits of conduct of former commissioners sharpened.

Under the current framework, EU officials are free to take up any job after a "cooling off" period of 18 months after they leave office.

Barroso's successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, has referred the case to an advisory ethics committee, but only after the EU ombudsman questioned whether he really had done everything to verity that the appointment was in line with the ethical obligations laid down in the EU treaties.

Juncker has also launched another probe on former competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, a member of Barroso’s cabinet, after leaked documents showed she had failed to declare directorship of an offshore company based in the Bahamas.

But NGOs say the EU executive should have acted when Kroes took up a job with tech firm Uber earlier this year after promoting their interests during her time in office.

Lobby group Alter-EU has lodged a complaint of maladministration over this, and a similar case involving former trade commissioner Karel De Gucht.

Juncker has stated that the EU executive is mulling changes to the commissioners' code of conduct, but has yet to announce concrete proposals.

EU employees and NGOs say the commission is doing too little, too late.

Glorified photo opportunity

The EU staff want to remain anonymous, both for fear of retaliation but also “because we represent the people of the street”, one of them said.

It’s the first time that EU workers have publicly criticised their leadership.

They say they are deeply committed to the European project and tired of their bosses giving them a bad name.

He said representatives of the EU employees and NGOs had eventually been invited to meet with the commission’s secretary-general, Alexander Italianer, on Wednesday afternoon.

“But that’s not what we asked for,” the employee said. ”We want to see Juncker - he's the only one who can change the rules.”

Margarida Silva attended the meeting on behalf of Alter-EU and was also disappointed.

“When Alexander Italianer called us up for a meeting, we thought he would have something to say, that it would be an opportunity to open up a dialogue,” the transparency campaigner told EUobserver. “Then we realised this was just a photo opportunity for the commission.”

Dutch socialist MEP Dennis De Jong, co-chair of the European parliament’s intergroup on integrity, joined protesters outside the commission building on Wednesday.

He told this website the commission had angered the parliament as well by sending Pierre Moscovici to answer MEPs’ questions on the code of conduct of commissioners.

Moscovici, a French socialist, is considered a progressive member of the college.

“But he’s not even responsible for these questions, which by the way was his line of defence in our debate,” De Jong said.

The Dutch politician said the commission was out of touch with public opinion, which didn’t accept any longer cosy relationships between politics and business.

“Business as usual is over,” De Jong said.

Former EU climate chief defends VW post

Former EU commissioner Connie Hedegaard told EUobserver she did nothing wrong in taking up posts at VW and Danfoss, amid a swirling debate on EU officials' links to big business.

Opinion

Barrosogate: What next?

Barrosogate is putting to the test an already weak oversight system of former EU commissioners and highlighting the limits of the lobbying regulatory regime.

EU commission seeks answers from Kroes

Juncker has written to former competition chief after revelations about her offshore firm. Kroes says she forgot to mention it. Her penalty, if any, will be symbolic, but EU reputational damage is growing.

Interview

Temporary director shakes up EU innovation agency

Martin Kern has been interim director of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology for almost three years. “I understand it must look a bit unusual from the outside.”

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

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. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us