Ombudsman seeks clarity on Barroso move to Goldman Sachs

European Commission president asked to explain position on predecessor’s move

José Manuel Barroso: took position as chairman and adviser to Goldman Sachs 20 months after stepping down as European Commission president. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has called on the European Commission to clarify its position regarding the recent appointment of former Commission president José Manuel Barroso as chairman and adviser to Goldman Sachs International.

In a letter to Mr Barroso’s successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, Ms O’ Reilly said she wished “fully to understand the commission’s position on the matter” in light of the EU’s obligations under article 245 of the EU treaty, which requires commissioners to “behave with integrity both during and after their term of office”.

Further steps may be taken by her office pending the reply, she warned.

In July, London-based Goldman Sachs International announced the appointment of the former Portuguese prime minister to the position of non-executive chairman, replacing former Irish EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.

Controversy

The appointment has sparked controversy, with more than 100,000 people signing an EU staff position organised by a group of EU officials calling on the former commission chief to forfeit his pension and accusing him of bringing the EU into disrepute.

Mr Barroso, who served two terms at the helm of the commission from 2004 to 2014, was appointed by the London-based division of the US bank to advise on the fallout from the British referendum vote to leave the EU. His pay has been undisclosed.

Mr Barroso was in charge of the commission during the height of the euro-zone crisis, and led the EU’s executive body when a raft of financial services legislation affecting the City of London was introduced by then internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier. Mr Barnier has since been appointed by the commission to head-up its Brexit unit.

Ethics code

Former EU commissioners must secure commission approval before taking up positions within 18 months of leaving the commission. Mr Barroso assumed the position 20 months after leaving the commission. But in her letter, Ms O’Reilly said that “certain cases will not cease to be problematic simply because 18 months or longer has passed”, adding that there could be question marks over the adequacy of the ethics code itself.

She said that the appointment of Mr Barroso had generated “understandable international attention given the importance of his former role and the global power, influence, and history of the bank with which he is now connected”.

Since her appointment as EU ombudsman in 2013, Ms O’Reilly has tackled the issue of “revolving doors” at the commission.

The commission has been given an October 14th deadline to respond.