EU Commission to Bolster Transparency Rules Amid Barroso Probe

The European Commission plans to bolster its transparency rules after drawing criticism amid ethics inquiries into two former officials.

The Brussels-based commission has opened an ethics investigation into Jose Barroso’s hiring by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. less than two years after he stepped down as president of the European Union’s executive arm. Goldman Sachs officials including Chief Executive Officer LLoyd Blankfein, held meetings with Barroso while he was leading the commission that weren’t disclosed publicly at the time, Portuguese newspaper Publico reported over the weekend.

“I believe that the commission will further strengthen transparency rules in future,” commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Monday. “But we need to wait and see what form that strengthening will take.”

European Parliament President Martin Schulz called the commission’s ethics rules “not precise enough” after the Barroso probe was opened. The commission also is scrutinizing former Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes over her directorship at a company in the Bahamas. Kroes, who was EU competition chief from 2004-2009, failed to declare the corporate role to the commission as required under ethics rules.

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Barroso, who waited the required 18 months before taking up a corporate post, has criticized what he calls “discrimination” against him in the case, saying he “scrupulously observed” all the rules. Barroso, who led the EU executive for 10 years until 2014, is advising Goldman Sachs on Brexit and other global issues in his role as non-executive chairman of the firm’s international unit.

“Barroso himself has given detailed public explanations of his position which I have nothing to add to,” Schinas said on Monday. “I have nothing to add to what Mr. Barroso has already said publicly about his contacts.”

Publico said its reporting was based on documents the newspaper obtained after a request placed with the commission. In a written response to Publico, Barroso said he “naturally” held meetings at the height of the financial crisis. Barroso said he kept institutional contact with political, business, financial and union groups, including banks and that the meetings were transparent, registered and archived.

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