The main trade union of EU civil servants has added its voice to the chorus of politicians demanding that the European Commission take an “appropriate decision” on José Manuel Barroso’s new position at Goldman Sachs. EURACTIV France reports.
The Union for Unity (U4U), the largest trade union representing EU civil servants, has published an open letter calling for the College of Commissioners to make “a strong declaration and take an appropriate decision” following the announcement of the new contract between former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the investment bank Goldman Sachs.
The nomination of the former head of the European executive to serve as non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs “raises ethical questions,” the open letter from U4U said. “In particular, we want to stress that Barroso presided over the Commission during the so-called sub-prime crisis, which was actually a banking crisis, in which Goldman Sachs played an important role.”
The trade union also asked whether Barroso had consulted the college of commissioners, as the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour dictates, and whether the Commission’s Ethical Committee had delivered its opinion.
Legally, the ex-president is bound to avoid any conflicts of interest for a period of 18 months after the end of his function. So since the beginning of May this year, the Portuguese politician no longer has to consult the current College of Commissioners.
U4U’s calls for an “appropriate decision” refer to the ex-president’s generous monthly stipend. For three years after they leave office, former presidents of the European Commission are allowed to claim 60% of their salaries, or €15,000 per month.
In theory, this package is designed to make job offers from conflicting interests less attractive. But Barroso’s new job, announced exactly 20 months after the end of his second term as European Commission President, clearly illustrates this system’s limitations.
Suspending the stipend
French MEPs attacked Barroso with quotes taken directly from the Lisbon Treaty. They stressed that all Commissioners, including the President of the Commission, had made a solemn commitment to “respect the obligations arising [from their function] and in particular their duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits”.
Pervenche Berès, the leader of the French Socialist delegation in the European Parliament, also recalled her 2010 proposal to boycott Goldman Sachs. Her delegation then called for a revision of the Code of Conduct for Commissioners to increase the conflict of interest period from 18 months to five years, to put an end to this kind of revolving door scenario.
In the political centre, Jean Arthuis had a humorous take on events. He tweeted, “Barroso is thinking logically. He wants to understand how Goldman Sachs tricked him about the reality of Greece’s public accounts.”
Barroso a de la suite dans les idées. Il veut comprendre comment Goldman Sachs l'a enfumé sur la sincérité des comptes publics de la Gréce!
— Jean Arthuis (@JeanArthuis) July 10, 2016
The outcry against Barroso’s nomination was echoed by the French government. On Friday, the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Mathias Fekl condemned the behaviour of a “representative of an old Europe that our generation will change”.
Desservir les citoyens, se servir chez Goldman Sachs: #Barroso, représentant indécent d'une vieille Europe que notre génération va changer
— Matthias Fekl (@MatthiasFekl) July 8, 2016
On the extreme right, the National Front chimed in with criticisms of its own. “Barroso at Goldman Sachs: no surprise for those who know that the EU serves big finance, not the people.”
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) July 9, 2016