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The Brief: Barroso Commission for hire

The Brief: Barroso Commission for hire

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Unemployment in the EU remains stubbornly high. Except among former EU Commissioners.

They can’t stop taking up job offers, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable it makes life for their previous paymasters.

In the last two weeks, there was outcry over ex-Commission President José Manuel Barroso pocketing a payslip from Goldman Sachs. Former Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes – now on the board of Uber – also forgot to declare her directorship of an offshore firm while in her post.

The latest Commissioner to take the corporate shilling is ex-climate chief Connie Hedegaard.

It was announced this morning that she had joined the international sustainability council of – drum roll please – the Volkswagen Group. Yes that VW, of Dieselgate fame. You know, the emissions test cheats.

The Commission today could only say that the obligatory 18 month cooling-off period that Commissioners must observe before taking a job had been respected.

But officials privately admitted the timing couldn’t have been worse, as anger rises over Brussels’ ‘revolving doors’.

To be fair, only Kroes has broken EU rules. Hedegaard and Barroso (even though he was told off) are guilty of nothing more than thoughtlessness or bad judgment.

Yesterday, Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said transparency was vital to regain citizens’ lost trust in the EU.

Tougher rules and decisive punishment for those with their snouts in the trough is more important.

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EU agricultural subsidies are paying for a pig farm on the site of a Nazi concentration camp in the Czech Republic. Juncker was sent this letter.

Spain is reflecting on 30 years of CAP highs and lows and its socialists are in turmoil. But what do the Danes and the Germans have against the Baltic cod?

MEPs missed the chance to vote for free Interrail yesterday but they are linking together in the fight against hunger.

The Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Germany for its controversial road toll law, introduced last year by Bavaria’s conservatives.

Italy’s Matteo Renzi has told Britain it can’t expect more rights than other EU countries post-Brexit. The French are looking forward to making the most of Brexit.

Tory big beast Ken Clarke has accused the British government of having no idea of what to do about Brexit. This think tank agrees, and some want the WTO to get involved.

Welsh whisky is making its tentative first steps while suffering from a Brexit hangover, and this is an excellent piece on arch-Brexiteer Dan Hannan MEP.

Belgium’s national strike saw up to 70,000 demonstrating in Brussels and even Martin Selmayr had to walk to work.

Meanwhile the Commission’s Marie Donnelly has lashed out at subsidies for coal, gas and nuclear, branding the EU’s power market “broken”.


Environment ministers meet in Brussels tomorrow for what promises to be a tense day of talks on climate. The EU wants to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change on 7 October, pushing the deal over the 55% threshold of global emissions needed for it to enter into force. But Italy and Poland are causing problems, trying to win late concessions on the division of emissions reductions among member states. The Commission’s worst case scenario is that France decides EU ratification is taking too long and jets off to New York to grab the glory of triggering the threshold alone or with the other five member states ready to ratify.