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José-Manuel Barroso buys a diamond slipper at the expense of Europe (maj3)

JM Barroso before the Luxembourg court (credit: G. Pastor)
JM Barroso before the Luxembourg court (credit: G. Pastor)

(BRUSSELS2) A year and a half after the end of his functions, the arrival of José-Manuel Barroso, the former President of the European Commission (from 2004 to 2014), has been appointed as Director (non-executive) and adviser at Goldman Sachs. A decision to say the least strange, surprising, which challenges. The man is not penniless. And this arrival at one of the planet's financiers is not disinterested.

How much does a President of the Commission get?

The former President of the European Commission is, in fact, not penniless. He received during his period as commissioner in addition to his monthly salary (25.554 euros since 2012), a 'residence' allowance (+15% per month) and a representation allowance (1418 euros per month), or at the very least, of 31.000 euros per month (at the end of his mandate). That is more than 3 million euros in ten years. What to make some savings... and some envious people (1).

How much has he received since the end of his mandate?

At the end of his mandate, the President of the Commission (like any Commissioner) normally received a "transitional" allowance of nearly 15.000 euros (60% of his former salary) for three years, deducted from the European budget (2) . Since January 2015, José-Manuel Barroso has waived this compensation. The Commission's chief spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, expressly confirmed this to B2.

Does he receive a pension or an early pension?

Normally Barroso was to receive from the age of 65 a pension of around 42% of his commissioner's salary, or around 10900 euros according to my calculation (3). It is logical and unquestionable. B2 has learned, officially, that the person concerned has asked to benefit from an early pension (which he is entitled to do since he is at least 60 years old but which takes all its salt when we know that in as a politician Barroso condemned early retirement, believing that they were harmful to competitiveness and employment). He should thus receive 70% of the pension; or about 7650 euros according to my calculations.

Why did Goldman Sachs hire the former chairman?

The financial group is very clear in the work that will be devolved to José-Manuel Barroso, according to the communicated which was released on July 8 to the press (or download here). It is above all his know-how as a former president and former Prime Minister, and his address book which are implemented rather than a precise work.

« His perspective, judgment and counsel will add great value to our GSI Board of Directors, Goldman Sachs, our shareholders and our people »

What does the European Treaty provide? : delicacy and honesty

The treaty (article 145) provides for keeping a certain "delicacy" in the acceptance of functions

“The members of the Commission (...) make, when they are installed, the solemn commitment to respect, during the term of their functions and after the cessation of these, the obligations arising from their office, in particular the duties of honesty and delicacy with regard to the acceptance, after this termination, of certain functions or certain advantages. »

Can the European institutions react?

Yes. The European institutions have legal means at their disposal. The rules provided for by the European Treaty are clear. They can in particular pronounce the resignation from office – which entails the abolition of the transactional indemnity – and/or also pronounce the abolition of the right to pension.

"In the event of breach of these obligations, the Court of Justice, seized by the Council, ruling by a simple majority, or by the Commission, may, as the case may be, order the resignation from office under the conditions of Article 247 or forfeiture of the right to a pension of the person concerned or other benefits in lieu thereof. »

Was José-Manuel Barroso obliged to notify his new job?

No. According to the Commission's Code of Conduct, former Commissioners have " the obligation, for 18 months after leaving their functions as European Commissioner, to notify the Commission of the activities they intend to carry out ". " These are very strict rules, stricter "that which is" usually in force in a Member State or international organizations ". After this period of 18 months, any commissioner remains free to take any job without warning. " It is deemed that there is no longer a conflict of interest ". He is " presumed no longer have privileged information explains the Commission's chief spokesperson, answering questions from journalists on Monday (July 11).

Are there still obligations after this 18-month period?

It is the transparency criteria that continue to apply. In all cases, the commissioners remain bound " by discretion, integrity and professional secrecy "provided for by the Treaty" in Section 245.2 and Section 339 ».

Has President Juncker been informed?

Yes... afterwards. José-Manuel Barroso did not notify the European Commission in advance. " President Juncker was informed after the decision personally by President Barroso said his spokesperson.

Juncker has a comment to make?

No " In general, President Juncker is not in the habit of commenting on the decisions taken by his predecessors. (...) The President does not wish to comment. You (journalists) be there for (that). »

Will the Commission open the procedure?

The Commission has " no intention to initiate proceedings of compulsory resignation. " It's not on the agenda he said.

Comment: a greedy being, without any political sense

I have never been a big fan of President Barroso (4). Suffice to say that with this behavior, it surprises me only half. But I still had a kind of respect for the politician. I thought he had, all the same, some European convictions.

I realize that he is only a being, without any political sense, without any respect for the public question. A totally greedy being, moved only by his private interests. Going to work at Goldman Sachs is not really going to work in an NGO or a non-profit foundation, or even an SME that needs a helping hand to get through certain doors. It is crawling before power. It is a sign of great moral decay and mental degeneration.

To do so today at a time when Europe is being criticized is both a lack of good manners but also of political awareness. The European institutions have the opportunity to act and react today. They must have the courage. In the case of Barroso, this procedure would be above all symbolic (except to request a suspension of pension rights). He has already waived the settlement indemnity. This could undoubtedly appear harsh in the eyes of some at the Commission who believe that after all, he has the right to go and work in the private sector. But it is up to the prank of the former Portuguese Prime Minister, the slap he gave to the institutions and to the European spirit.

Various reactions

The comments in European circles are devastating. Ironic, , Chairman of the Budget Committee in the European Parliament (UDI/ALDE), wonders: " Barroso has more ideas. He wants to understand how Goldman Sachs smoked him out on the sincerity of Greece's public accounts! »? The Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir believes that « Barroso makes the bed of anti-Europeans, he should give up his post at Goldman Sachs (...) The 'Barroso' affair shows that the rules on conflicts of interest must be reinforced. The President of the Commission must be above the pressures of private interests. In general, the French socialists are very upset. Their press release is devastating: “ Such recruitment is indecent, undignified and shameful » they indicate, asking « forfeiture of Mr. Barroso's pension rights and other benefits in lieu ».

Sanctions against Goldman Sachs and revision of anti-revolving door rules

More generally, they ask a revision of the code of conduct to extend to one legislature – 5 years – the anti-revolving door rules. (...) If this recruitment were to materialize despite everything, we demand full traceability of absolutely all contacts between Mr Barroso and his teams with members, officials and representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council. At the first failure, sanctions - such as the boycott of Goldman Sachs by member states - should be considered. » The same feeling for MEP Sylvie Goulard, formerly of the Prodi cabinet (ALDE) proposes that " In very concrete terms, if he persisted in his intention, the Commission services would have to refuse any contact with him. »

We can notice that if the comments are very hard among the "Latin" MEPs, their Anglo-Saxon counterparts (much more accustomed and flowing on the public-private passage) and the MEPs of the European People's Party (EPP), Barroso's party are much quieter.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) A salary much higher than that of the President of the Republic in France: 21 euros under Sarkozy, nearly 300 euros under François Hollande

(2) A new regulation in February 2016 reduced this period to 2 years, but this reduction is not applicable (if I understood correctly) to former Commissioners. The European Commission and the Member States must now think about also modifying the rules of procedure to include in the automatic resignation the assumption of duties in private multinational companies.

(3) A commissioner receives 4,275% per year of presence of the base salary for each year of presence (10 years X 25.554,58 euros).

(4) Read:

Updated July 11 with details from the Commission's Chief Spokesperson and exact salary figures for a Commission President - with reactions from various MEPs. Updated July 14 with the indication that Barroso is indeed receiving an early pension!

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).