Tuesday

18th Sep 2018

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

  • "Could the commission please explain" why it took no decision over Barroso's (r) job at Goldman Sachs, EU ombudsman O'Reilly (l) asks. (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU Ombudsman has asked the European Commission to clearly state what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office, and to and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

It would be "helpful" for the commission to say how it defines the EU treaty requirement that former commissioner behave “with integrity and discretion," Emily O'Reilly said in a letter, which was sent to the EU executive's president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

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

"What is the commission’s understanding in this regard?" she asked. She added that the commission should publish "a list of examples of behaviour which it would consider to be a breach of the above duty."

O'Reilly's letter, which was published on Monday, follows three complaints over the commission's handling of the Barroso case.

In July last year, former EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso took a job at the US investment bank Goldman Sachs to help its clients to avoid the negative consequences of Brexit.

Faced with a public outcry and a request by the ombudsman to investigate the former president's conduct, the commission took the case to a so-called ad hoc ethical committee.

In November, the committee said that Barroso had "associated" the commission and the EU with Goldman Sachs' "image of financial greed", but that he had not broken any rules.

Although Juncker said that Barroso's move was a "poor choice" of employer, the commission didn't follow up on the ad hoc committee's report and took no decision over its former president's new bank job.

A separate case last year involved another former commissioner, Nellie Kroes, who was in charge of competition and digital affairs between 2004 and 2014.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed in September that Kroes had failed to disclose that she was the director of an offshore company, which was based in the Bahamas from 2000 to 2009.

The commission referred Kroes's case to the ad hoc ethical committee. Based on the committee's findings, the commission gave a "reprimand" to its former member in December.

It said that Kroes had breached the commissioners' code of conduct, as well as a regulation on commissioners' income.

"Could the commission please explain why it issued a decision in the case of the former commissioner, but not in the case of the former commission president?" ombudsman O'Reilly asked in her letter to Juncker, referring to the two cases.

So far, the commission's only reaction to the Barroso case was to propose that the cooling-off period - the time during which former commissioners are banned from taking a new job - is extended from eight months to three years for ex-presidents, and to two years for other commissioners.

O'Reilly said she "welcomed" the move, but she asked why the commission didn't consult the ad hoc committee "on a more general basis" to engage a wider reform of the commissioners' code of conduct.

"These issues have been on the table for some time. It is very important that we get an answer," an ombudsman spokeswoman told EUobserver.

The EU ombudsman's letter is part of a probe it launched in February, after an initial complaint by a group of EU civil servants.

The group had asked, in a petition signed by more than 150,000 people, for the commission to take "exemplary measures" against Barroso.

Two other complaints have since been filed - by The Good Lobby, a group of academics, professionals and students, and by Corporate Europe Observatory, a transparency group. Given the similarities between the three complaints, the ombudsman has decided to deal with them jointly.

The ombudsman’s questions suggest that she thinks the current system "is inadequate to attain its declared purpose", Alberto Alemanno, an EU law professor who is involved in The Good Lobby, told EUobserver.

"The system is not institutionalised enough," he said, adding that "combined with its underlying opacity, this system raises serious concerns from a good administration perspective."

He said that he expects the ombudsman will eventually recommend the commission to "entirely re-think the system to verify the commissioners’ post-mandate jobs, in order to align it to the principle of good administration."

The commission has until 29 September to provide an answer to O'Reilly's letter.

Commission tightens rules after Barrosogate

The European Commission has proposed tighter rules for its members after their term finishes, amid a long-lasting row over Jose Manuel Barroso's job at Goldman Sachs.

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us