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EU: the Barroso-Goldman Sachs affair, European Ombudsman warning about transparency and rules

Il Mediatore europeo, Emily O'Reilly

(Strasbourg) After one year’s investigations, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, asked the Ethics Committee to find out, again, whether the job of the former president of the European Commission, José Barroso, at the Goldman Sachs Bank is compatible with the obligations imposed by the Treaties on former members of the EU Commission. A press release explains that “Barroso’s commitment to the Ethics Committee that he must not do any lobbing with the EU Commission seems to have been questioned by a meeting between Barroso and a deputy president”, written down in the deputy president’s diary as a “meeting with the Goldman Sachs Bank”, even if the two parties then stated that it was “a private, personal meeting”. While former commissioners “are entitled to have a job once they leave their office”, as former public officers, they must also “make sure their behaviour does not undermine the citizens’ trust”, according to O’Reilly. The fact that Barroso’s new job has aroused “serious concerns” in the public opinion “should at least arouse concerns in the EU Commission as to the fulfilment of his confidentiality obligation”. According to the European Ombudsman, then, the Code of Conduct enforced on February 1st is not good enough yet to make sure such situations are avoided; in addition, the period during which former commissioners must notify their new roles should be changed from 18 months to several years. The EU Commission will have to judge the case by June 6th 2018.

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