Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case

  • The commission says it is "fully in line" with its transparency rules (Photo: TP)

Jose Manuel Barroso, the former European Commission president, did not lobby current commissionner Jyrki Katainen, and the commission is "fully in line" with its transparency rules, the institution has reiterated.

"The [commission] vice president [Katainen] made it very clear that such an activity was not carried out by Mr Barroso" when both men met last October, the commission's new secretary general Martin Selmayr said in letter seen by EUobserver.

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

The letter was sent to Alter-EU, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, in reply to a request to reconsider the commission's greenlight to Barroso's job at the US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Barroso took the job in July 2016, and the commission ethics committee estimated that it did not breach rules as long as Barroso did not engage in lobbying.

However, the meeting with Katainen - held without note-taking in a hotel near the commission's headquarters - "confirms that Mr. Barroso has not kept his commitment to not lobby on behalf of Goldman Sachs," according to Alter-EU in its letter to the commission earlier this month.

The coalition of transparency NGOs said that the opinion of the commission's ethics committee, which said last year that Barroso's job did not breach rules, "must be deemed null" and Barroso's case "should once again be assessed."

Selmayr argued in his letter: "any meeting with Mr Barroso, regardless of the capacity in which Mr Barroso acts and independently of the possibly private or social character, shall be published as a meeting with an interest representative."

Selmayr said that the policy was set by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker after Juncker's predecessor Barroso took a job at the US business bank Goldman Sachs in July 2016.



Juncker took that decision after public outcry and after the EU Ombudsman called for a strengthening of ethics rules for former commissioners.

Barroso, for his part, had pledged in a letter to Juncker that he had "not been engaged to lobby on behalf of Goldman Sachs," and that he did "not intend to do so."

In a report earlier this month, EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly suggested that the meeting with Katainen could be considered as lobbying. She also demanded that the ethics committee reassess Barroso's case.

She noted that at the meeting, which Katainen described to EUobserver as a "beer between friends", "matters discussed, trade and defence policy, may be of interest to an investment bank such as Goldman Sachs."

She added that "one of key objectives of a lobbyist is to meet with public officials and to obtain from them information which may be useful to the company they represent."

In his letter Selmayr argued that "this strict approach" of treating Barroso like a lobbyist "does not mean that every meeting with Mr Barroso must have the purpose of lobbying."

"The commission is in contact with the European ombudsman," he added about O'Reilly's demands, but did not answer Alter-EU's request for a reassessment of the case and for a reinforcement of ethics rules.

After the ombudsman report, the commission suggested it would not change its rules, arguing that it was already "world leader for the quality and intensity of its rules."

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

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.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us