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Barroso’s new job faces scrutiny

Today’s media outlets, such as Handelsblatt, NRC Next, Ta Nea, Le Figaro and The Guardian, widely report that EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly is looking into former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s new job with Goldman Sachs. She sent a letter to the current head of the EC, Jean-Claude Juncker, in which she underlines that Mr Barroso’s appointment as the American bank’s non-executive chairman raised widespread concerns “at a very delicate moment in time for the EU, especially for citizen’s trust in their institutions.”

Philenews.com provides further details, noting that the Ombudsman’s intervention comes after EU staff launched a petition calling on EU institutions to take “strong exemplary measures” against Mr Barroso. The petition now has more than 120,000 signatures. Quoted by Le Figaro, Ms O’Reilly points out that “it is a question of public interest that should be settled in an open and detailed manner by the Commission.” She further mentions “understandable international attention given the importance of his former role and the global power, influence, and the history [of Goldman],” as reported in Philenews.com, Hotnews.ro and The Guardian. Ms O’Reilly also told EC President Juncker that public unease would be exacerbated by the fact that Mr Barroso is to advise Goldman on Great Britain’s EU exit.

The press, including Err.ee, notes that she asked the EC President to ensure that everything goes according to ethical obligations and that she is giving him until October 14th to react. Le Figaro adds that, even though an EC spokesman said yesterday that “the rules were respected” in the Barroso case and that the European executive “is exemplary” in this affair, Emily O’Reilly points out that “it is not enough to say that no rule has been broken.” “If necessary,” she continues, “the Commission should also change the code of conduct for former employees as soon as possible;” a topic further discussed, for instance, on Lalibre.be, in Corriere della Serra and Dnevnik.

Along the same lines, Ms O’Reilly said Barroso’s case highlighted the “apparent arbitrariness” of the 18-month period. “Certain cases will not cease to be problematic simply because 18 months or longer has passed,” she said; quoted on Philenews.com. “It could therefore be more appropriate for the Commission to decide on the merit of individual cases on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant issues and not just the period of time that has passed since a Commissioner left office.”

In a pessimistic tone, Nils Pratley believes, in an op-ed for The Guardian, that the EU Ombudsman is unlikely to do anything for three reasons: the former EC President appears to have followed the rules; the EU would then have to explain why European banks are acceptable; if the European Commission really wanted to preach financial purity and transparency to the world, it would start with Luxembourg, formerly run by Jean-Claude Juncker. In a critical tone towards the Union, Eleftheros Typos comments that the EU institutions reacted with a two-month delay to the news regarding Mr Barroso’s scandalous appointment. Eleftheros Typos’s opinion piece also points out that Mr Barroso has always been a “lobbyist” of businesses and banks.

 

copyright:EuropeanUnion2016

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