José Manuel Barroso will face humiliating security checks after Jean-Claude Juncker, his successor as European Commission President, stripped him of the privileges traditionally offered to visiting dignitaries in Brussels.
Juncker has opened a probe into whether Barroso breached EU ethics guidelines by joining investment bank Goldman Sachs, where he will advise on Brexit.
In a letter to the European Union’s official watchdog, Juncker also said that Barroso will now be received as a lobbyist rather than as a former president.
EU sources told euractiv.com that the decision was “significant” and “political” – meaning it was not motivated by the letter of EU law but rather a response to the outrage caused by Barroso taking the job.
Commission Deputy Chief Spokesman Alexander Winterstein today (12 September) told reporters the unprecedented decision would mean that Barroso would be barred from using a separate entrance reserved for visiting dignitaries.
There would be no photo of Barroso with Juncker, as is customary, and he would have to undergo the same security checks “as all the rest of us,” Winterstein said.
That involves queuing to pass through the Commission’s front revolving doors, showing identification and the inside of any bags, emptying metal objects into a box and passing through an airport style scanner. Barroso, as a lobbyist, will also have to sign the EU’s transparency register.
Commission security staff reacted with mirth and an obvious sense of anticipation to the news, promising to give Barroso the same – or even worse – treatment as everyone else.
Former Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes, now on the board of Uber, will not be subject to the same scrutiny, Winterstein said.
“Clearly when it comes to former President Barroso, we have seen a lot of concern voiced which we have not seen with former Commissioner Kroes,” Winterstein said.
French President François Hollande deemed it “morally unacceptable” that Barroso accepted the role of non-executive chairman and advisor at the US bank, which is blamed for causing the financial crisis.
Show us your contract
Juncker said his team would send Barroso “a letter asking him to provide clarification on his new responsibilities and the terms of reference of his contract, on which I will seek the advice of the (Commission’s) Ad Hoc Ethical Committee”.
His letter was released late on Sunday (11 September) by European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly who had written to Juncker last week asking him to check that Barroso’s appointment “conforms with ethics obligations” in the EU treaties.
The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the institutions and bodies of the EU.
Barroso headed the Commission from 2004 to 2014, overseeing the accession of several former communist states in Eastern Europe, the global financial crash and the ensuing eurozone debt crisis.
Goldman Sachs said in a statement in July that the hiring of Barroso was “nothing to do with the outcome of the Brexit vote”.
At the time, the Commission said Barroso did not have to inform Juncker about the job because he had been through an 18-month “cooling off” period since leaving and it was safe to assume he no longer had access to privileged information or influence.
But it added he would still be bound by EU rules of professional secrecy.