EU watchdog criticizes Commissions handling of Barroso case

The EUs ethics watchdog said Tuesday it “disagrees” with the European Commissions handling of an investigation into its former president, José Manuel Barroso.

European Ombudsman Emily OReilly issued a final report into the Barroso case and said she stood by an earlier finding of maladministration.

Barroso, who was president of the Commission from 2004 to 2014, sparked concerns about potential conflicts of interest when he took a job at Goldman Sachs in 2016. Barroso promised at the time that he would not lobby the Commission in his new position, and the Commissions internal ethics committee ruled that his new job did not merit losing his EU pension or entitlements.

However, that promise was questioned after it came to light that a meeting had taken place between Barroso and Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen in late 2017 to discuss trade and defense issues. Although it was registered as a meeting with Goldman Sachs in Katainens meeting list, both parties said it was personal and of a private nature.

After OReillys critical report came out in March, Barroso called her recommendations “a thinly veiled ad personam political attack,” and said “any meetings I may have with EU officials are in my personal capacity.”

But in Tuesdays report, OReilly stood by her findings, saying the Commissions “failure to take a specific decision” constituted maladministration.

The report also states that the former Commission chiefs promise to not engage in lobbying does not constitute “a sufficient safeguard against this eventuality.”

OReilly also recommends extending the period during which former commissioners must abstain from lobbying, saying that former EU institution heads “will always be in a privileged position as regards contacts with the institution and its staff, no matter how much time has elapsed since the end of his/her mandate.”

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