Hollande ups pressure on Barroso over Goldman Sachs Brexit job

 

Pressure built Thursday on former European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso over his new job advising US bank Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS-PB - news) on the consequences of Brexit, with France's president describing the role as "morally unacceptable".

Francois Hollande's condemnation was the strongest yet of Barroso and came after France had already called for him not to take up the position with the investment banking giant.

France's Minister for Europe Harlem Desir said on Wednesday Barroso was "helping anti-Europeans".

"I solemnly appeal for him to give up the post," Desir told the French parliament.

Hollande said that by joining Goldman Sachs, Barroso would be assisting a bank which "advised the Greek government and dressed up the deficit figures it gave to the European Union several years ago".

Barroso, Hollande also recalled, was in charge of the EU's executive arm at the time of the subprime crisis "of which Goldman Sachs was one of the main banks (responsible)".

"And then we learn a few years later that Barroso is joining Goldman Sachs? It (Other OTC: ITGL - news) 's legally possible, but it's morally unacceptable," Hollande said in a TV interview to mark the Bastille Day holiday.

Barroso served as president of the European Union's executive arm for a decade until 2014 -- steering it through the global financial crisis -- and before that as Portugal's conservative prime minister from 2002 to 2004.

In another French barb, France's minister for foreign trade Matthias Fekl tweeted that Barroso was "an obscene representative of an old Europe".

And French Socialist Euro MPs called in a joint statement for rules governing the future employment of former European commissioners to be changed, saying the "revolving door system strongly resembles a conflict of interest".

Meanwhile, Pedro Filipe Soares, a leader in Portugal's radical Left Bloc that supports the ruling leftist coalition, said: "This nomination shows that the European elite of which Barroso is part knows no shame."

He is to become a non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International (GSI), the bank's international arm based in London, from where he will be able to observe first-hand the so far turbulent fallout from the British public's vote to leave the EU.

A European Commission spokesman in Brussels said Thursday Barroso had not broken any rules in accepting the job.

The EU treaty governing the future employment of former commissioner states that they should behave "with integrity and discretion when it comes to certain appointments or benefits".

"We believe the rules have been respected," the spokesman said.

The Commission has said however that Barroso will be bound by EU rules of professional secrecy in his role with Goldman Sachs.

Barroso himself told Portuguese news magazine Expresso that he was fully aware his appointment would divide opinion.

"If you stay in political life you are criticised for living on the state's expenses but if you go into the private sector you are criticised for profiting from the experience you gained in politics," he said.