EU to tighten ethics code after Barroso row

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled plans Wednesday to tighten the code of conduct for former officials after a row over his predecessor Jose Manuel Barroso’s role with Goldman Sachs, Daily Star reported.

The “cooling-off” period during which they must inform Brussels if they take a new job would be extended from 18 months to three years for former commission presidents and to two years for former commissioners.

“In the light of recent experience made with members of the previous commission, I feel that our code of conduct should be tightened in order to set the highest ethical standards possible for cases of conflict of interest,” Juncker said in a statement.

“For the future, I want notably to extend the cooling off period for former presidents to three years. Tighter rules are certainly not sufficient to bring about acceptable ethical behaviour in all cases, but they are an indispensable starting point.”

Ex-Portuguese premier Barroso headed the Commission, the EU’s powerful executive arm, from 2004 until 2014, emerging as a high-profile public figure with political and business connections worldwide.

His decision to join U.S. bank Goldman Sachs, widely blamed in Brussels for its role in the 2008 global crash, sparked uproar with French President Francois Hollande saying it was “unacceptable.”

An EU ethics committee last month cleared Barroso, who waited the compulsory 18 months, of breaching ethics rules but criticised his “judgment” for taking the Goldman job.

Former Luxembourg premier Juncker himself said he was against Barroso taking the Goldman job, saying that there was “no problem for him to take a job in a private bank, but not that one.”