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Outcry over Barroso move to Goldman Sachs

July 9, 2016

Jose Manuel Barroso is to join Goldman Sachs in London to advise it on Brexit and other European issues, two years after heading the European Commission. A storm of protest has erupted in his home Portugal and in France.

Jose Manuel Barroso Pressekonferenz in Brüssel 02.06.2014
Image: /AFP/Getty Images

Portugal's Left Bloc leader Pedro Filipe Soares on Saturday said Barroso was part of a European elite that "knows no shame." At the same time, French socialist European members of parliament called for legal changes to block the "revolving door" appointments that see officials move to lucrative jobs in the private sector after leaving civil service.

Currently, a commissioner must remain accountable to the EU executive for 18 months after leaving office.

Barroso, 60, served as president of the EU's executive between 2004 and 2014 and steered it through the global financial crisis that peaked in 2008. He also served as Portugal's prime minister from 2002 to 2004.

'Historic mistake'

Just before Jean-Claude Juncker became commission president in 2014, Barroso had warned Britain that if it chose to leave the EU it would be a "historic mistake."

Goldman Sachs International's (GSI) co-chief executives, Michael Sherwood and Richard Gnodde, said Barroso's would bring "immense insights and experience" to the bank's international arm based in London as its non-executive chairman.

GSI told the US broadcaster CNBC that talks with Barroso had taken place a year ago.

Barroso told the Portuguese newspaper "Expresso" that his new job would be an "interesting and stimulating challenge that will allow me to use my skills for a global financial institution."

'Worst timing' for EU

The leftwing French newspaper "Liberation" described Barroso's appointment as the "worst timing for the (European) Union and a boon for europhobes."

It was tantamount to giving Europe "the figure," the paper added.

Matthias Fekl, France's foreign trade minister, tweeted: "Serving the people badly, serving yourself at Goldman Sachs."

"We call for rules to be changed to prevent the appointment of former European commissioners," said French socialist European Parliament members in a joint statement.

EU - Amtsübergabe Jose Manuel Barroso und Jean-Claude Juncker
Barroso (R) hands over to Juncker in October 2014Image: Getty/J. Thys

They said the "revolving door system strongly resembles a conflict of interest."

Goldman Sachs was one of the main actors in the complex global financial crisis that centered on risky subprime mortgages in the US housing market.

Banks back London

On Thursday, four US investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, promised British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne that they would help London keep its top spot as a financial center.

Since Britain's June 23 referendum decision to leave the EU there has been widespread speculation of an exodus of banks and their personnel from London.

Osborne said Britain needed to ensure a heavy emphasis on trade ties, including financial services, in anticipated talks of a British exit from the EU.

ipj/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)