Former EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has come up with passionate defense for his choice to join Goldman Sachs’ London arm weeks after Brexit vote by insisting the bank is not as bad as it seems and definitely “not a drug cartel.”
The timing of Barroso’s career-changing move in July to a senior adviser position at Goldman after serving as the EU Commission president from 2004 to 2014 has landed him in hot water.
Last week, his successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, launched an ethics investigation into the matter, calling on Barroso “to provide clarifications on his new responsibilities and the terms of reference of his contract.”
Speaking at the event at the coastal Portuguese city of Cascais, 30km from Lisbon, on Friday, Barroso took aim at what he described as “arbitrary, discretionary treatment” of his case by the EU “for political purposes.”
“Why would I not have the right to work where I choose, if it is a legal entity, obviously, not a drug cartel?” the former EU official said, as quoted by Reuters.
More than 145,000 people have signed up to the petition demanding from the EU to take “strong exemplary measures” against Barroso “whose behavior dishonors the European civil service and the European Union as a whole” by joining the bank, which helped to trigger the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and hide the Greece public debt troubles in the early 2000s.
Barroso has been employed by the financial giant as a non-executive chairman and senior adviser since early July with his duties involving counselling of how to mitigate the effect of Brexit on the bank’s assets. This prospect raised concerns that Barroso could exploit the existing loopholes in the EU regulations for the benefit of his new employer.
“It's a mistake on the part of Mr. Barroso and the worst disservice that a former Commission president could do to the European project at a moment in history when it needs to be supported and strengthened,” French European Affairs Minister Harlem Desir said back in July.
Meanwhile, the former chairman has received a hand of support from the Portuguese authorities, with Prime Minister Antonio Costa asking Juncker last week to explain the grounds for “differentiated” treatment of Barroso, who himself served as Portugal’s PM from 2002 to 2004.
Barroso has praised Costa for standing up for him, saying that “the prime minister may agree or not with my attitude and my choice, but he is defending me as a Portuguese,” insisting that he has not violated any ethical principle, as he waited for 18 month before taking up the office, as stipulated in the code of conduct.
“As a Portuguese and European citizen I do not accept being limited in my rights. I have done everything transparently, scrupulously following the rules.”