Brussels, 7 March 2017
Note to the attention of Mr Jean-Claude JUNCKER
President of the European Commission
Subject: Barroso case – Decision of the European Ombudsman of 24 February 2017 to open an inquiry, to invite the Commission to reply to the letter of last 16 October, sent by the collective of the staff members responsible for the petition “Not on our behalf”, and to check how our institution is dealing with this case of “revolving doors”.
Ref.: Barroso file (see file from November 2016)
Our notes about the Barroso case
The decision of the European Ombudsman (Complaint 194/2017/EA), is only the latest step in a process that our institution managed in a totally inadequate manner, thus undermining both its credibility and the confidence of its staff.
It is with sadness that we noted that the European Ombudsman had to intervene and invite you to reply before 31 March to the request of our colleagues; request that you received already 5 months ago.
And now we would like to invite you not to only to reply to their letter but also to meet the representatives of the collective of colleagues who triggered the petition “not in our name”
It is indeed very sad to see that you haven’t found the time yet to receive a delegation from this collective, whereas President Schulz, as an example, had given them a very warm welcome and a very attentive listening, when the petition was tabled.
And yet we are talking about thousands of staff members who called for your sensitivity, expressing you their trust.
Receiving them would be the best way to show them your respect, admiration and appreciation towards their unwavering dedication, that you seem to confirm on every occasion to your staff, as you just did when you presented your White Paper on the future of the European Union.
Recall of facts
Ever since the very beginning of the Barroso and Kroes cases, while firmly supporting the European Ombudsman’s very clear positions, R&D has drawn your full attention to the urgent need and the obligation to ensure quick, effective and accurate management of those dossiers which have provoked reactions that are more than virulent and have profoundly challenged the credibility of our institution (cf. dossier Barroso-Kroes).
At the same time, and with the utmost respect for the autonomy of the colleagues’ collective who initiated it, R&D immediately supported the petition “not in our name“, which collected more than 153,000 signatures asking the Commission to take a legal action before the European Court of Justice against Mr Barroso.
We regretted the lethargic attitude of our institution, which gave therefore the impression to foster the illusion – both by its inaction and by its obviously inadequate reactions – that these cases would fade away and this, in spite of the demands of the staff and their representatives, as well as political reactions within all member states.
Afterwards, we welcomed the first reactions and actions implemented. Nevertheless, they remain inadequate, insufficient and incomplete to cope with the seriousness of the credibility crisis that has hit our institution.
This attitude did not fail to exacerbate the reactions of the citizens, of your staff, of the press, and to provoke very strong and critical comments from the European Parliament.
About the inadequacy of the procedures in force to avoid conflicts of interest of the members and former members of the Commission
It is nevertheless significant that, after having claimed / its outstanding nature, the college finally decided, upon your instigation, to reform the code of good conduct applicable to members and former members of the Commission.
Nevertheless, as all observers have pointed out, and as confirmed by the European Parliament’s resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority on 1 December last year (2016/2080(INI)), the current procedures for managing conflicts of interest of members and former members of the Commission remain largely insufficient to enable the Commission to manage such cases which have a devastating effect on the credibility of our institution and of the European project. This applies above all to the role of the ad hoc Ethical Committee.
The disappointing management of these cases
It was in the decision-making process, related to these cases, that the attitude of our institution was more than disappointing.
On one hand, as regards this case, we have already seen the laughable nature of the arguments put forward by Mrs Kroes to justify the allegations against her and the unreliable nature of the decisions taken on the quiet by the Commission on 21 December last year. One only has to remember the remarks made by MEP Pascal Durand, rapporteur for the text adopted by the European Parliament on 1 December 2016 on the declarations of interests of the members of the Commission (2016/2080 (INI) and the motion adopted by the EP on the freezing of allowances… (see EP Resolution of 26 October 2016 … point 69 2016/2047 (BUDG)) on the Commission’s decision: “It’s a real scandal, that’s total garbage!”, by denouncing that commissioners “do not realize how much they are / hurting the image of Europe” (AFP-EU article: after Barroso, the transparency under test in Kroes case, fourth paragraph).
Again, there is no need to denounce this dual-speed ethics: the unlimited shown lenience towards Mrs Kroes is in no way comparable to the sanctions which would be given by the Appointing Authority – for similar acts – to any staff member.
Not to mention that staff members do not benefit from the unlimited benevolence of the ad hoc Ethical Committee. The slightest suspicion of violation of the rules in force and s/he would be subjected to heavy and arduous investigations by OLAF and/or IDOC.
On the other hand, we had to note that the opinion of 28 October 2016 given by the ad hoc Ethical Committee on the Barroso case, worthy of Pontius Pilate, was absolutely inadequate considering the serious consequences for the credibility of our institution (ethics and integrity of European commissioners). Our analysis was reinforced by the equally critical opinion of the European Ombudsman (Ombudsman reacts to opinion of Ethical Committee on Barroso).
The ad hoc Ethical Committee / restricted itself to a simple opinion and we then asked you to make sure that a clear decision would be made by our institution on this matter. However, after several months, we are still waiting for this decision to be taken, though we had asked for your intervention so that the decision could be adopted in order to clarify the situation.
The same request was last addressed to you, on 16 October 2016, by the collective who triggered the petition “Not on our behalf”.
Since the Commission has so far failed to answer, the European Ombudsman decided on last 24 February:
1) to open a formal inspection with respect to the way our institution managed the “revolving door” case of our former President Barroso (Complaint 194/2017/EA):
In the motivation supporting its decision, the European Ombudsman confirms all the criticisms we had raised about the management of the case, in particular the l absence of a proper investigation by the ad hoc Ethical Committee:
“I expected a much more thorough investigation. There is no evidence that they interrogated anyone, that they asked to see Barroso’s contract with Goldman Sachs or whether they had investigated the scope of the tasks entrusted to him, “explains the Ombudsman.
The European Ombudsman therefore announced that she would look into the functioning of the ad hoc Ethical Committee and that her services would carry out an inspection of the Barroso case but also of the other four cases that received an opinion of the Committee.
2) to invite you to reply before 31 March at the request of the collective of colleagues on the basis of the petition “not in our name“, on last 16 October.
We would kindly invite you not only to reply to their letter but also to meet the representatives of this collective without further delay, to please listen to their requests and to answer their questions and queries.
It is not too late!
It would be truly sad that the dialogue between our President and his staff should involve a bureaucratic exchange of letters and that the intervention of the European Ombudsman would actually be needed. In that respect, we would like to thank again the European Ombudsman for all the actions and initiatives she implemented ever since the beginning of these cases.
Mesdames and Messrs the members of the College
Members of College
Ms E. O’REILLY, European Ombudsman
Mr Pascal Durand, Member of the EP
The staff of the Commission