Finally breaking his silence over the controversy that his plum new job with investment bankers Goldman Sachs has generated, former European Commissioner Durão Barroso claims he is being “discriminated against for being Portuguese”.
Referring to the removal of his so-called red carpet privileges (click here), the former politician said “there have been other members of the European Commission who went to large international banks and nothing was announced against them. Why has it been announced against me?”
Goldman Sachs is “not a drug cartel”, he said, stressing that the whole idea of his representing the bank was to “reinforce a culture of transparency and responsibility”.
It has nothing to do with lobbying, he said, adding that nor could he be blamed for anything Goldman Sachs may have been guilty of in this past.
It was an interview played out over all media channels – some of which chose to go into the detail of his discourse more than others.
Rádio Renascença, for example, highlighted Barroso’s insistence that he was hired by the bank in order to help clean-up its image.
“My work will be to promote a culture of responsibility, ethics and transparency”, he stressed. “I cannot be made responsible for things of the past. I think it is perfectly acceptable from an ethical and moral point of view to work for Goldman Sachs”.
Newpapers and television appear to think otherwise. Within hours Público published a number of articles suggesting Barroso’s relationship with Goldman Sachs goes back years – and has resulted in a number of “costly and failed business ventures”.
The “chronology of correspondence between Barroso and Goldman Sachs” began in 2005, said the paper, with a mail from Goldman Sachs executive director Lisa Rabbe describing how the bank was “enchanted” by some of Barroso’s policies, and “ready to help”.
Público’s text went on to give multiple instances where the practice of revolving doors appears to have been working in overdrive.
“Official documents that Público consulted show that Goldman Sachs closely accompanied the activity of the European Commission”, the paper explains.
Lloyd Blankfein (whom Público describes as “Goldman Sach’s controversial CEO who has compared his work as a banker to that of God”) praised measures taken by Barroso “on numerous occasions”.
Blankfein wrote in a letter dated September 2013 that Barroso had “introduced important reforms that are going to strengthen the Monetary Union, restore confidence in banking supervision of the eurozone and separate the banks of sovereign risk”.
While Público’s reaction took the form of detailed damning texts, SIC television also laid into the former EC boss, pointing out that as he had no previous banking experience, the only use he could possibly be to the North American bank was that of a “large facilitator”.
“Barroso still does not understand that he has exceeded all the limits of ethics and decency”, commentator Pedro Marques Lopes told late news “Edição da Noite”.
He appears “like a child” who has been brought up in the worst possible way. One that says: ‘Look, that boy also did what I did’, so why should he be singled out for punishment?
“When a President of the European Commission who had the responsibility that he had doesn’t minimally perceive this then quite frankly we are done with this conversation”, said Marques Lopes, concluding that ethics and responsibility should always be held above the simple letter of the law.
For now, the stripping of red carpet privileges ‘sticks’, though prime minister António Costa has queried the ‘discrimination angle’ with current EC boss Jean-Claude Juncker.
Marques Lopes told Edição da Noite that this was “logical” and principally an “institutional position”- though, in his opinion, (and referring to tax positions taken when Juncker was prime minister of Luxembourg) Juncker too leaves much to be desired in the ethics department.