Former Barroso Commissioners still enjoying big paydays

Ferdinando Nelli Feroci was only a Commissioner for three and a half months, but still takes home nearly €100,000 a year. [European Commission]

Former Commissioners are enjoying fat transitional allowances, even though they may already be working in the private sector or even if their time at the executive was only fleeting, according to German media. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The EU is paying out six figure sums to former Commissioners, according to an investigation carried out by Die Zeit and seen by in advance. All in all, half of the Barroso II team are earning at least €99,996 per head a year, according to the newspaper’s calculations. That’s 16 former Commissioners.

On the list of names can be found former Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and former Agriculture Commissioner, and current Romanian prime minister, Dacian Cioloș. The former officials are entitled to these payments for three years after their mandate expires.

Die Zeit also claimed that former Commissioners are allowed to draw these fat pay cheques regardless of their current employment status. Many have already gone on to secure highly-paid positions in the world of lobbying, multinational corporations or the wider political scene, meaning many are double earning.

The Commission only reluctantly allowed Die Zeit access to this information when the newspaper threatened to drag the executive before the European Court of Justice. The list of names is dated 21 October and has been seen by EURACTIV as well.

Under EU law dating back to 1967, when the bloc was known as the European Economic Community, it is stipulated that outgoing Commissioners receive between 40 and 65% of their former basic salary. Which percentage the individual receives is based on their length of service: less than two years limits it to 40%, more than 15 years bumps it up to 65%.

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The rationale behind this transitional allowance is to deter Commissioners from putting their feelers out for new jobs while they are still fulfilling their mandate and, theoretically, ensuring there is no conflict of interest. But, in light of this new research, it is questionable whether this scheme really is countering the much-maligned “revolving door” of the Berlaymont.

The recent case of Kristalina Georgieva unsuccessfully standing for UN Secretary-General and then resigning to take up a position with the World Bank has already been criticised and questions have been asked about how much time the Bulgarian Commissioner was campaigning for either jobs.

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Of particular interest are the cases of former Commissioners Karel De Gucht and Hedegaard. Former trade chief De Gucht is on €124,000 a year, paid out from the Commission’s coffers, despite having already been hired by three private companies. In addition to top positions at steel giant Arcelor-Mittal and mobile telecoms firm Proximus, De Gucht is also on the payroll of asset management provider Merit Capital and investors CVC Capital.

Die Zeit estimated that the former Commissioner takes home several hundred thousand euros a year, supplemented by his Brussels entitlement.

Denmark’s Hedegaard, also appearing on the list, sparked controversy in September when it was revealed that Volkswagen had brought the former climate chief onboard as a member of its newly formed “Sustainability Council”.

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Before that, though, in April, she was also recruited by mega corporation Danfoss. How much the Dane pockets per annum for these positions can only be estimated, but, again, it is hundreds of thousands of euros.

Moreover, former industry tsar Ferdinando Nelli Feroci perfectly illustrates how the Commission’s policy is arguably flawed. For just three and a half months of service, the Italian Commissioner can count on a princely sum of €99,996 per year.

Feroci replaced the outgoing Antonio Tajani, who was taking up a position at the European Parliament. Three months later, the Barroso Commission’s mandate ended and Feroci departed to pastures new.

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