Weak EU Ethics Rules Exposed by Former Commission Chief’s Goldman Sachs Job

Weak EU Ethics Rules Exposed by Former Commission Chief’s Goldman Sachs Job
Former EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, left, stands with current President Jean-Claude Juncker, May 26, 2015, Brussels (European Commission photo by Georges Boulougouris).

Pressure has been mounting on the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, and its former president, Jose-Manuel Barroso, since he recently took a job with U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs. Many are calling for Barroso’s commission pension to be revoked and for EU ethics rules to be made stronger. In an email interview, Daniel Freund, the head of advocacy for EU integrity at Transparency International, discusses the EU’s ethics rules.

WPR: What is the role of the European ombudsman, and what recourse does the ombudsman’s office have when faced with issues of ethics, corruption and abuses of power?

Daniel Freund: The role of the European ombudsman is to be the contact point for citizens that feel that their rights have been abused or that they have witnessed maladministration. In 2015, the ombudsman’s office handled over 2,000 complaints and opened 261 cases. The ombudsman can provide guidance, but also issues nonbinding recommendations on how EU institutions should adapt their procedures. This is of course a soft power, but many of the ombudsman’s recommendations have been taken on board—90 percent in 2014.

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