MEPs are demanding former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is sanctioned for taking a job with Goldman Sachs, saying he has failed to “behave with integrity and discretion.”
Barroso, who served two, five year terms as commission head, is criticised for joining the Wall Street bank that some claim helped set off the 2008 financial crisis.
His appointment as a non-executive chairman and advisor to the international arm of the US investment bank giant was announced on Friday. Barroso served as president of the European Commission from 2004 to 2014.
While prime minister of Portugal from 2002 to 2004 he hosted the controversial Lajes summit, also known as the "war summit", in the Azores alongside George W. Bush, Tony Blair and then Spanish prime minister José María Aznar where the decision to launch the war on Iraq was taken.
The US Department of Justice found Goldman Sachs guilty three months ago of knowingly misleading investors between 2005 and 2007, in an act that tipped the economy into recession and causing billions of dollars in losses for investors after the housing bubble burst.
Barroso's appointment, the latest case of the so called “revolving doors” practice between politics and business for former EU officials, has drawn a barrage of criticism from across Europe.
MEP João Ferreira a member of the European Parliament's left-leaning GUE/NGL group denounced the “shameless conflict of interest” underlying the appointment, saying, “Barroso changes jobs but continues, in practice, defending the same interests as he did during his decade-long role as President of the European Commission - that of big financial capital."
"This is yet another case that proves the promiscuity and fusion that exists between EU institutions and big financial capital. These are the interests that the EU defends, against the interests of the workers and the people.”
He added that Barroso, in his role as Commission President, “led the imposition of top-down austerity policies that followed the crisis and continue to impoverish European citizens to this day.”
“This appointment only reinforces, among other things, the urgent necessity of revoking all laws relating to the Banking Union, returning sovereignty over the financial sector back to member states and rejecting the subordination of management and supervision of this strategic sector to the interests of big financial capital,” the Portuguese MEP said.
There are now calls for the rules to be changed to prevent the appointment of former European Commissioners to posts with a potential conflict of interest.
There is currently a “cooling-off” period of 18 months imposed by the EU after officials leave their posts but this is seen as insufficient.
Another GUE/NGL group MEP, Marisa Matias, has called for an end to the “impunity enjoyed by former EU officials.”
Matias said, “This appointment is completely shameful. Barroso waited for the end of his 18 months to immediately collect his reward for the good job he did for Goldman Sachs and the financial markets, by devastating the life of millions of European citizens with austerity in Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, among others. This shows what interests European leaders follow and a good example of why the European Union got to this appalling state. “
Elsewhere, the French Socialist delegation to the European Parliament has called for sanctions against Barroso by cutting his pension from the Commission when he reaches 65 years of age.
They say the penalty is possible under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which says EU commissioners must “respect the obligations arising there from 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.”
Barosso was not immediately available for comment.