EurActiv understands that the bid to show compassion for ordinary EU citizens was instigated by Barroso, who hails from austerity-stricken Portugal.
The move has been in discussion for some weeks, but was agreed shortly before Easter, galvanised by events in Cyprus.
Last week Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, announced that he would be taking a 25% salary cut "in solidarity" with the Cypriot people. The newly-installed Anatasiades' cabinet ministers have also agreed to slash their wages by 20%.
EurActiv understands that Barroso used this over the weekend to persuade several Commissioners unwilling to accept the salary cut to relent; he felt all 27 should agree the cut to make it meaningful.
As Cypriot president, Anastasiades' annual basic salary is around €110,000 but with additional perks thought to be in excess of that figure, compared to the €304,000 basic pay of Barroso (€25,351 per month).
Commissioners receive €19,910 each month, and vice-presidents €22,963. All also receive extras including a residence allowance equal to up to 15% of that salary, and allowances for expenses like running a household and schooling for children.
After the pay cut, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now assumed to be the best-paid EU politician. Merkel’s monthly base salary is €21,000.
Solidarity is key
Barroso has long championed solidarity.
“Let's be frank, solidarity is one of our core values and a driving force of the European integration process: solidarity between member states as we tackle the problems we all share in our fast changing world, solidarity between rich and poor as we work to bring growth, jobs and prosperity to every corner of our continent,” he said in a press release published today (1 April).
Easter was considered an appropriate time to make the announcement, in light of its traditional religious associations with extreme sacrifice.
EurActiv understands that two Commissioners were absent from the college meeting at which the move was agreed.
One of them is Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani. According to unconfirmed rumours, he was travelling on business in Bora Bora at the time, and was particularly "upset" about the move. The name of the other absent was not known by the time of publishing.
The Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration, Maroš Šefčovič, will reduce the salaries by 25% from next month, Barroso's spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told EurActiv.
"The ball is now in in the camp of Commissioner Šefčovič who is in charge with everything in relation to Commissioners' salaries," Hansen said.