| BRUSSELS, Sept 12
BRUSSELS, Sept 12 The European Commission faces
a serious test of its credibility as it seeks to determine
whether former president Jose Manuel Barroso was right to take
on a job at Goldman Sachs, two transparency watchdogs
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has launched an
unprecedented ethics investigation into his predecessor who
plans to help the U.S. investment bank deal with Brexit. Juncker
will ask an independent panel to review Barroso's contract.
European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly and Transparency
International both welcomed what they described as a positive
first step, but said public trust in the EU executive was at
stake in its handling of the affair.
"In a case that will have a huge impact on the Commission's
integrity and reputation, the process needs to be swift and
transparent," Transparency International EU director Carl Dolan
said in a statement on Monday, adding that the panel's minutes,
advice and reasoning should be published as soon as possible.
EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, who asked Juncker last week to
explain what measures he was taking over Barroso, said she was
pleased that the Commission president had responded to
"There is much at stake in terms of public trust," O'Reilly
wrote. "This matter must be thoroughly and adequately dealt
with. It is important also that such an assessment is completed
as soon as is reasonably possible, within weeks and not months."
Nearly 140,000 people have signed an online petition started
by EU staff calling for "strong exemplary measures" against
Barroso, whose decision to work for Goldman Sachs they described
as a "gift horse" for europhobes.
His decision comes at a time when the EU is struggling in
the aftermath of Britain's vote in June to quit the bloc to
dispel public perceptions that it is a bureaucratic pawn of
Some Europeans also hold Goldman Sachs partly responsible
for the financial crisis that nearly wrecked the euro.
Goldman Sachs said there had been no breach of ethics.
"Goldman Sachs and Mr. Barroso have adhered to all
applicable legal rules and the highest ethical standards in his
appointment," it said in a statement.
Barroso, a former Portuguese prime minister who headed the
EU executive for a decade until Oct. 2014, has not commented
publicly on his new job.
A Commission spokesman, asked why Juncker had only acted two
months after Goldman hired Barroso, told a news
conference the president had been reflecting on the issue.
"He took time to think about the best thing to do. He
doesn't just base his opinions on what was in the newspapers ...
What counts is that an opinion is based on facts and that is
exactly what is going to happen," he said.
Under its rules, the EU must vet former commissioners taking
up new jobs within 18 months of them leaving office. Beyond that
limit, they are still obliged to act with integrity and
discretion and can be stripped of their pensions if they fail to
(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels and
Anjuli Davies in London; Editing by Gareth Jones)