Saturday

16th Nov 2019

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 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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 politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

EP president threatens MEP with sanctions over a tweet

The president of the European parliament, David Sassoli, has threatened the leader the leftist GUE/NGL group, Manon Aubry, over a tweet in which she encouraged the eco-activist group Extinction Rebellion to occupy the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us