A petition against the appointment by Goldman Sachs of former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso has attracted more than 76,000 signatures.
The change.org petition — which claims to have been started by a group of EU civil servants — is asking for punitive measures to be taken against Mr Barroso, including the suspension of his EU pension, over his decision to work for the Wall Street giant.
The former EU chief was unveiled as the non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs’ London-based investment bank in early July, a fortnight after the UK’s shock vote to quit the EU.
Despite a long history of former politicians taking up private sector jobs, the Goldman Sachs appointment provoked outrage from Mr Barroso’s former political colleagues, including France’s President François Hollande who described the move as “morally unacceptable”.
The petition is more than halfway to its stated target of 150,000 signatories and is due to be presented to current commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the end of September. It will also go to European Council president Donald Tusk and the leader of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.
The European Commission would not comment. There is no legal basis for curbing Mr Barroso’s pension, which is more than €100,000 a year, since he fully complied with an 18-month restriction period that kicked in when he left Brussels in October 2014.
Mr Barroso would not comment on the petition, while Goldman Sachs stressed that his 18-month restriction was “a longer period than that imposed by most European institutions”. Mr Barroso succeeded another ex-EU official at Goldman Sachs, Ireland’s former commissioner Peter Sutherland.
Critics have claimed the role is inappropriate given Mr Barroso’s central role in forming Europe’s response to the financial crisis during his decade at the helm of the EU. The petition also references Goldman Sachs’ role in the US subprime crisis and Greece’s crisis and the crucial juncture the EU faces as Brexit looms.
“It (the appointment) is, at the worst possible moment, a disastrous symbol for the Union and a gift horse for the Europhobes that a former Commission President is associated with the . . . values that Goldman Sachs represents,” the petition argues.
Mr Barroso had told the Financial Times that while his conversations with the bank predated Brexit, he would do what he could to “mitigate the negative effects” for Goldman Sachs of the UK’s break with the EU.
“Of course I know well the EU, I also know relatively well the UK environment,” Mr Barroso said. “If my advice can be helpful in this circumstance I’m ready to contribute, of course.”
Mr Juncker has criticised the appointment in two separate interviews. “The fact that Barroso works for a bank doesn’t bother me,” he told Belgian newspaper Le Soir in late July. “But the fact that it’s that one causes me a problem.”
Letter in response to this article:
Get alerts on José Manuel Barroso when a new story is published