Thursday

27th Feb 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day 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.”

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. WHO on coronavirus in Europe: 'be prepared'
  2. Frontex hits activist pair with €24,000 legal bill
  3. Turkish jets keep violating Greek airspace
  4. 'Fragmented' Slovakia goes to polls amid corruption woes
  5. EU development policy needs a fresh start
  6. EU critical of China on Swedish dissident publisher
  7. NGOs urge EU to tackle meat consumption 'problem'
  8. Coronavirus: voices from a quarantined Italian town

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us