Barroso hits back at Brussels over inquiry into Goldman Sachs role

Former European commission president dismisses claims his new job broke ethics rules as ‘baseless’ and ‘discriminatory’

The former president of the European commission has hit back against criticism about his new role at Goldman Sachs by insisting he will act with integrity and discretion.

José Manuel Barroso, who was president of the commission for 10 years until 2014, was in July named chairman of Goldman Sachs International, the bank’s UK and European operations, in a move that sparked anger among commission staff.

A petition criticising Barroso’s “morally reprehensible” behaviour, has attracted almost 140,000 signatures, and this week the EC president, Jean-Claude Juncker, launched an investigation into whether any EU rules had been broken by Barroso.

In a letter to Juncker, Barroso said he was not being employed as a lobbyist or adviser on Brexit and that the bank had intended to appoint him before the vote to the leave the EU. “I have not been engaged to lobby on behalf of Goldman Sachs and I do not intend to do so,” Barroso said.

Barroso also took issue with the warning from Juncker that he would not be received in EU institutions as a former president, but as an “interest representative”, subject to the same rules as other lobbyists.

Jean-Claude Juncker.
Jean-Claude Juncker. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

“I have never sought a privileged position but I would not expect to be discriminated against,” Barroso said in his letter, adding that he wanted to know how a decision about his position had been made. “Not only are these actions discriminatory but they appear inconsistent with decisions taken in respect of other former members of the commission.”

A former prime minister of Portugal, Barroso said he had been careful to comply with the commission’s rules, adding that he had joined Goldman 20 months after his period office, longer than the 18-month cooling off period imposed on him.

“I am very clear about my ongoing responsibilities to the European institutions and naturally I will maintain my commitment to act with integrity and discretion,” he said.

“It has been claimed that the mere fact of working with Goldman Sachs raises questions of integrity. While I respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the rules are clear and they must be respected. These claims are baseless and wholly unmerited. They are discriminatory against me and against Goldman Sachs, a regulated company operating in the internal market.”

EU rules stipulate that commission officials have a duty to “behave with integrity and discretion” once they have ceased to hold high office.

Barroso’s role at Goldman sparked controversy in France, from the far-right leader Marine Le Pen and also the country’s Europe minister, Harlem Désir, who said the EU’s conflict of interest rules needed to be tightened.


Jill Treanor

The GuardianTramp

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