Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'

  • Commission presidents past and present - Juncker (l) has defended Barroso (r) as a "friend" and said no rules were broken (Photo: European Commission)

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker considers that his vice president Jyrki Katainen followed all the rules when he met Goldman Sachs' Jose Manuel Barroso in a hotel bar last autumn.

"The meeting was respecting in full the rules the commission has adopted," Juncker told journalists on Wednesday (21 February).

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

He pointed out that Barroso, who is Juncker's predecessor as commission president, has been "put on the list of lobbyists" and that "the meeting was made public".

"We never said that Jose Manuel Barroso could not have meetings with commissioners and that commissioners would not be allowed to have meetings with the former president of the commission," he insisted.

Juncker added that Barroso was "not a gangster" and was still his "friend".

Barroso joined Goldman Sachs, a US investment bank, in July 2016, less than a month after the Brexit vote, to help the bank dealing with UK's exit from the EU.



An ad hoc committee set up by the commission said that Barroso's move was not in violation of the commission's code of conduct for former commissioners.



The committee however considered that Barroso had "not shown the considerate judgment one may expect from someone having held the high office he occupied for so many years" by joining a bank with a "negative image of financial greed".

But it noted that the former commission chief, in a letter to Juncker, had promised that he would not lobby for Goldman Sachs.

The committee said that it "consider[ed] "this commitment as responding to the duty of integrity and discretion imposed by the treaty."

Barroso registered?

Barroso being on a list of lobbyist, as mentioned by Juncker, would contradict this commitment and put into question the ad hoc committee's his being cleared of his Goldman Sachs move.

EUobserver understands however that the former commission chief is not among the six people who are mentioned as the "persons involved in the activities" covered by the EU transparency register.

And his name doesn't appear when searched in the register.

"There are so many discrepancies in all this story," said Margarida Silva, from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the Brussels-based transparency watchdog which brought light on the meeting this week.

Katainen met Barroso in November, in a hotel near the commission building.

He told EUobserver on Monday that they went "for a beer" and talked about the commission's "ambitious trade and defence agenda."

"He did not lobby me. We did not talk about a word of the bank," he said.

"We knew that no matter he is my friend or not, it's better to put it to the registry. We just wanted to make sure that he is there if somebody is interested," he added to explain why a the meeting was put in the commissioners registry of meetings.



The beer with Barroso was however registered as a meeting with "the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS)."

'We need clarity'

In a letter to CEO last month, Katainen said that he met "with Mr Barroso from Goldman Sachs in the Silken Berlaymont Hotel in Brussels on 25 October 2017."

"Why did he not tell us that it was a private meeting when we asked him?" CEO's Silva asked.

She pointed out that no notes were taken of the meeting, contrary to usual pratices in an official meeting.

"We cannot question Katainen's explanations," she told this website. "But if it's was a private meeting, why did he log it in the meetings register?"

"We're just confused. At this point we need clarity," Silva said.

At his press conference, Juncker insisted that the commission could not be criticised for making the meeting public.

"This is nothing," he said about the controversy.

Vestager's 'no lobbyists' rule

Some EU officials however admitted - off the record - that Katainen's meeting was unfortunate.

Another commissioner also suggested that the Finnish member of the commission should have been more cautious.

"I took a decision in the very first week of my mandate not to meet with lobbyists," competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told journalists on Wednesday.

She said she preferred to "meet with people who are in charge, who can take the decisions."

Avoiding lobbyists "makes my life very easy," she said.

Interview

Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me

Vice-president of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen tells EUobserver that he did most of the talking during a beer with the former commission chief, who now works for 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.

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 tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

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. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us