Δευτέρα, 12 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

José Manuel Barroso to forfeit Brussels red-carpet treatment



11/9/2016

By Arthur Beesley

José Manuel Barroso will be the first former European Commission president to have his “red-carpet privileges” stripped on visits to Brussels as scrutiny deepens into his appointment to a top post at Goldman Sachs.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is examining his predecessor’s work contract with Goldman and has told staff to treat Mr Barroso in the same way as any other lobbyist liaising with Brussels.

As former commission chief as well as a former prime minister of Portugal, Mr Barroso would ordinarily receive VIP treatment from EU leaders and institutions in Brussels, where he held sway for 10 years as Europe grappled with a long financial crisis.

In future contacts, however, he will be regarded as an “interest representative” and any EU commissioner or official will be required to register and maintain notes of any dealings with him. This means he will not be received in Brussels as a former president of the commission.

Mr Barroso’s post at the bank has been intensely criticised in France, where President François Hollande labelled it “legally possible but morally unacceptable”.

As a Goldman adviser, Mr Barroso will work with the bank’s clients. The institution has been attacked for arranging complex financial instruments that helped Greece massage its public finances while he led the commission.

Last week Emily O’Reilly, Europe’s ethics watchdog, said the appointment had shaken public trust at a “very challenging time for the EU” and argued it was not enough to say no rules were broken.

In reply to Ms O’Reilly, Mr Juncker said the commission would ask Mr Barroso “to provide clarifications on his new responsibilities and the terms of reference of his contact”.

Mr Juncker plans to seek the advice of the commission’s ethics committee on whether Mr Barroso is complying with his legal duty “to behave with integrity and discretion” when taking certain appointments or benefits after leaving office.

This action was being taken even though Mr Barroso has personally confirmed to Mr Juncker his standing commitment to act appropriately and in line with his legal requirements.

The commission has previously said Mr Barroso’s appointment as non-executive chairman of Goldman’s international operations cannot be challenged under EU conflict-of-interest rules as 18 months has passed since he left his old position.

Mr Juncker said: “As for taking up his employment, Mr Barroso will be received in the commission not as a former president but as an interest representative and will be submitted to the same rules.”

He added that all commission employees would have to comply with the existing transparency rules when meeting Mr Barroso.

Goldman Sachs said: “Goldman Sachs and Mr Barroso have adhered to all applicable legal rules and the highest ethical standards in his appointment.”

In a statement on Sunday night, Ms O’Reilly welcomed the decision to refer the matter to an ad hoc ethics committee and said it should complete its work “within weeks and not months”.

There was a lot at stake in terms of public trust, she said.

“Citizens should expect that the outcome of this assessment, and the reaction of the commission to it, will lay the basis for increased citizen trust in the integrity of the relationship between public service and private interest,” she said.

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