The affairs of the Barroso Commission: one, two, three….
In the first place, as a result of its investigation, by decision of 30 June 2016, the European Ombudsman had already found a clear case of maladministration regarding the way in which the Barroso Commission dealt with the resumption of a professional activity by a former Commissioner. Indeed, the investigation found that the Barroso Commission had failed to meet its obligations regarding the prevention of conflict of interest of the former Commissioner.
To evaluate once again the lack of reactivity of our organization in the context of such cases, it is sufficient to note that the European Ombudsman is still waiting for your response to her letter and that she has already had to send you a new reminder.
Secondly, we will not return to the Barroso case because it has already been the subject of many of our letters to your attention (14 September; 9 September; 4 August; 12 July); a petition “Not in our name” initiated by a group of colleagues exceeding to date 150,000 signatures, outraged reactions of the entire European press, fierce declarations by the highest political authorities in the Member States, etc.
Thirdly, as if all this did not seem enough, the European press has just revealed that the former European Competition Commissioner Neeli Kroes, responsible in this respect for monitoring business, was the director of a company in The Bahamas during her mandate, in breach of European rules.
According to documents in the possession of the German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and the “International Consortium of journalists ICIJ investigation,” Ms. Kroes was Director of Mint Holdings Ltd., an offshore company based in the Bahamas, “from 4 July 2000 to 1 October 2009”.
In the Barroso Commission, she served as Commissioner of Competition from 2004 to 2009 (before becoming Vice President of the European Commission until 2014) while the Code of Conduct of the European Union provides that “the Commission members cannot exercise any other occupation, whether gainful or not.”
It must be remembered that the European Commissioners should, at the beginning of their term, not only renounce all management functions but also notify in a public register all those functions, whether paid or not, performed In the previous ten years.
Furthermore, Ms Kroes recognized in two newspapers that she had been “formally in violation of the Code of Conduct for Commissioners”.
The lawyers of the former European Commissioner have, for their part, told the British newspaper “The Guardian” that their client “officially agrees she should have declared her position as director” and that “Mrs Kroes will inform the President of the European Commission of this omission and will assume full responsibility”.
For her part, a spokesperson from the Commission, said that the former Commissioner had now informed the European authorities on this case. She added: “We will check and analyse this information before taking a decision”.
While it is commendable that Mrs Kroes has confirmed that she will “take full responsibility for her actions and accept the consequences”, it remains true that this new case will amplify the political repercussions of the other cases mentioned above , causing significant damage to the image and credibility of our institution at a critical time for our future.
… A lethargic Commission….
In the current context and given the severity of the crisis that the European project is going through, as you have so well stated in your speech to the Union of 14 September, it is essential that our institution moves away from this lethargic approach based on vague and purely formal replies and appearing to act according to the vain hope that the various crises will fade away, or worse, appearing to condone the mistakes of the Barroso Commission.
Ethical double standards…
On the one hand, this attitude is all the more unacceptable at the same time as the institution demonstrates its determination to implement persecutory measures against its staff, denounced by trade unions , as part of the ongoing discussion on the new draft “anti-leaks” code. This code obliges staff, amongst other things, to sign an annual declaration of ethics with a series of vague rules that open the door to all the risks of abuse, without mentioning the investigations carried out urgently by IDOC services (that are not at all lethargic when cases concern the normal staff) in cases where the slightest infringement is believed.
Your Commission must first set a good example: we must begin by urgently reforming the code of conduct for members of the College…
However, faced with the most worrying succession of such cases, rather than implementing measures which are disproportional and insulting for its staff, it is urgent that the institution comprehensively reforms the code of conduct for members of the College, as requested by all parties, which have clearly proven to be not suitable for their purpose.. It is not enough to change the rules; we must also ensure their enforcement by sanctioning violations.
Facing the credibility crisis that the European project is going through, affecting also our institutions, it is essential to reassure citizens about the role of the Commission, which is still and always the guarantor of the general interest, without bending to the interests and the pressures of lobbies of all kinds.
Again, we express the hope that under your guidance, our institution can finally demonstrate the determination and ability of reaction and action that have failed so far and that your staff and the outside world ask you.