We are concerned to learn of the appointment of former Commission President, Mr Barroso, as advisor and non-executive chairman of the activities of the US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
All the press across the European Union recalled the role of the bank especially in the context of the 2007 financial crisis and the Greek crisis and stressed the disastrous consequences for Commission and more broadly European Institutions image of your decision, in the particularly delicate and Europhobic political context of Brexit.
The staff of this Institution is thus the victim of an unilateral decision when common decency should never have led a former president of the Commission to accept such a function.
However, we cannot stop there.
In the first instance, we are requesting to know the College’s position on this matter, under Article 245 TFEU which provides that:
“The Members of the Commission may not, during their term of office, engage in any other occupation, whether gainful or not. When entering upon their duties they shall give a solemn undertaking that, both during and after their term of office, they will respect the obligations arising therefrom and in particular their duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits. In the event of any breach of these obligations, the Court of Justice may, on application by the Council acting by a simple majority or the Commission, rule that the Member concerned be, according to the circumstances, either compulsorily retired in accordance with Article 247 or deprived of his right to a pension or other benefits in its stead.”
And even if, in this case, the eighteen-months rule which appears in the Code of Conduct for Commissioners in the context of post-employment activities have been respected, Point 1.2 of the Code provides that “duty to behave with integrity and discretion pursuant to Article 245 of the Treaty (TFEU) even beyond the period of 18 months after ceasing to hold office” shall remain in effect.
In this case, the compatibility of the acceptance of this function within Goldman Sachs with the duties of integrity and discretion pursuant this Article clearly arises.
Beyond the application of these provisions, we wish to emphasize the flagrant inequalities between treatment of Commission members and Commission staff regarding the possibility of exercising external activities. After leaving the service, we are always subject to certain obligations and, in particular, we must continue to act with integrity and discretion and cannot accept tasks or professional activities that would conflict with the interests of the institution pursuant to Article 16 of the Staff Regulations. Furthermore, the lengthy delays to which we are subjected (2 years) are longer than those applying to former members of the Commission (18 months) while their degree of responsibility is incomparable to ours. At the very least, similar treatment should be guaranteed.
To this end and in view of the political and moral responsibility of members of the Commission in the light of general interest vis-à-vis European citizens, we ask you to review as quickly as possible ethical rules on the appointment of high-ranking officers of the institution, to prevent the recurrence of such a precedent.
This is also the request just made by the European Ombudsman, today.