Tuesday

14th Jul 2020

Commission tightens rules after Barrosogate

  • Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said ethical behaviour depended on more than tight rules.

The European Commission has proposed to prolong the period during which top officials have to seek permission before moving on to a new job, in an effort to calm a public uproar over former president Jose Manuel Barroso's job at Goldman Sachs.

"In the light of recent experience made with members of the previous commission, our code of conduct should be tightened in order to set the highest ethical standards possible for cases of conflict of interest," commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday (23 November) in a statement.

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 subscribe as a group

Barroso, Juncker's predecessor, caused a furore in July when he joined the US investment bank Goldman Sachs some 20 months after leaving the commission.

The current rules say ex-members of the college are subject to a "cooling-off" interval of 18 months after leaving office.

Juncker suggested expanding the period to three years for ex-presidents, and two years for all other members of the college.

"Tighter rules are certainly not sufficient to bring about acceptable ethical behaviour in all cases. But they are an indispensable starting point," he added.

Critics have long argued that the current code is too lax and allows for a "revolving door" between the EU executive and business.

Juncker came under fire in the Barroso case for failing to firmly condemn his predecessor and launch a sanctions procedure against him.

He waited several months before referring the case to the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee, an internal advisory panel, and that only happened after pressure from EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.

The ombudsman on Wednesday welcomed the commission's announcement, but said she would continue to monitor the situation.

She said her own work on the code of conduct suggested there was need for more far-reaching measures, including more detail on how the rules should be interpreted and the possibility of sanctions.

She also hinted at a possible overhaul of the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee, which currently consists of three people who are supposed to be independent experts but all have long careers in the EU behind them.

The commission gave no news on Wednesday regarding possible sanctions on Barroso. A spokesman said they were still discussing the opinion of the ethics panel, which was delivered on 31 October and said that Barroso had tarnished the image of the EU but not broken against the 18 months deadline.

Juncker himself has said Goldman Sachs was a "poor choice" of employer.

Magazine

Barrosogate and the revolt of public opinion

Just days after Britain's vote to leave the EU, the bloc was rocked by the news that commission ex-president, Jose Manuel Barroso, had landed a top job with Goldman Sachs.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Former EU commissioner gets slap on the wrist

Neelie Kroes, a commission member from 2004 to 2014, received a "reprimand" fro failing to declare off-shore company and income while receiving an EU allowance.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politician accuses Spanish state of espionage
  2. EU ministers clash with Turkey over Hagia Sophia and drilling
  3. Study: EU recovery package falls short on green investment
  4. WHO: no return to normal for foreseeable future
  5. Macron wants a stronger EU in the Mediterranean
  6. Croatia opens for US tourists, defying EU ban
  7. Poll: only 61% of Germans would get Covid-19 vaccine
  8. UK to spend €788m on new UK-EU border control system

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss

The European Parliament is refusing to disclose documents on an internal debate on whether to set up e-cigarette smoking booths at its premises in Strasbourg and Brussels, posing questions on how it handles transparency on relatively minor issues.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. EU prepares response to China over Hong Kong
  2. EU to keep corporate sponsorship of presidencies
  3. 'Passengers' became 'lenders' to airlines hit by pandemic
  4. Green NGOs demand EU dumps controversial energy treaty
  5. EU Parliament considers streamlining rule-of-law tools
  6. Italy has a responsibility, too
  7. Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote
  8. EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us