What should politicians do when they’ve lost their job? Should they enter the private sector and earn a living outside of politics? Is it unreasonable to expect them not to try and profit from the experience they gained whilst in office? What if they start leveraging their network of personal contacts?

Activists have long-complained about the so-called “revolving door” between business and politics. It’s not unusual for people from industry or the financial sector to join the Commission, or for Commissioners, MEPs, or EU officials to leave office and jump straight into lobbying positions. Obviously, there’s the potential for conflicts of interest if policymakers start making decisions based on the career options they might have after they leave politics. Is it enough to have a “cooling off” period, during which an individual cannot take up employment in a sector they once regulated? Or should the rules go even further?

The prime example, of course, would be Goldman Sachs hiring the former President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Upon taking up his new position, Barroso claimed he would not be lobbying on behalf of his new employer. However, it has recently come out that he may, in fact, have been doing exactly that.

Today, we’re continuing our “Ask” series with the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly. As European Ombudsman, she deals with issues of maladministration, transparency, whistle blowing, and improper lobbying. She’s tasked with investigating complaints from citizens about poor administration by EU institutions or other EU bodies.

What do our readers think about the ‘revolving door’ between business and politics? We had a comment sent in from Nelson, who thinks EU officials should be banned from working in sectors they once regulated. What would Emily O’Reilly say in response?

Next up, we had a comment from Carlos, arguing that it was “unethical” for former EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to accept a job at Goldman Sachs (even though Barroso apparently followed all of the relevant ethics rules). Is he right?

Is it wrong for former EU officials to work in sectors they once regulated? And was it unethical for Barroso to accept a position with Goldman Sachs? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – eamesBot


48 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    yes ok, but they need to have a break in that particular sector for at least 3 years.

    • avatar

      So I worked somewhere, then I gotta be jobless in order to work again?
      Or I just gotta become bartender for three years? Can’t forbid people this…

    • avatar

      most of the poeple are not workless, they’ve quit the job or lost it because they party lost seats. So don’t come here with the sorry tour.

    • avatar

      @Stefan The problem is they enforce polices as commissioners that will benefit their future employers. The current crop in Brussels wouldn’t be able to be a bartender, they don’t have the intellect or skill set for it.

  2. avatar

    Of course not, it’s the only reason they work in Brussels in the first place. I hear Soros is recruiting.

    • avatar

      Are you guys *ever* leaving? 🙄😛

    • avatar

      @Michael The EU yes, ‘Europe’ no. Next idiotic question please.

    • avatar

      I hear the pound is sliding

    • avatar

      @George Fall in the pound = increase in oversea’s sales = higher profitability = more jobs = more tax = increased revenue for the treasury = better standard of living. Next ?

    • avatar

      @Ivan if you stopped writing here all the time and started writing novels instead, you might have become a not bad fiction writer already.

    • avatar

      @Georgi What makes you think I’m not a professional writer ? But thank you for showing your hatred of free speech, Emperor Juncker will be so proud of you. :)

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      I suggest that when/if Ivan delivers a book then YOU should seek to buy it as Ivan often precipitates many pearls of wisdom as you have no doubt intimated.

  3. avatar

    Let’s not mince words, it’s wrong for them to regulate at the behest of the companies they are supposedly regulating in exchange for bribes of any kind. This is called corruption. Targeting this manner of bribery in particular will merely encourage other kinds of corruption to take its place. We need a comprehensive mechanism to prevent corruption in general.

  4. avatar

    There should be indeed a rule that forbids former EU regulators from taking private sector leading roles for at least 5 years after their mandate is over. It is the clamorous case of Barroso at Goldman Sachs,

  5. avatar

    Are they not working already by lobbying for them.

  6. avatar

    Yes. Loved the way Verhofstadt went nuts over Siryza for cronyism, and not a peep when Barroso get a handy number in Goldman-Sachs

    • avatar

      That’s because Verhofstadt is a Soros man, he’s bought and paid for.

    • avatar

      He’s a lot of people’s man.

  7. avatar

    No as long as conflicts of interest are managed.

  8. avatar

    Of course is wrong, just look at Barroso – Goldman Sachs.

  9. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive


    “Barrosogate” has revealed him as a liar & sociopath. This issue was previously commented on and the EU has not changed anything in the meantime!

    I commend the DE for introducing the OFFICE of the “European Ombudsman”- being an award winning Journalist of the Year and Woman Journalist of the Year- Emily O’Reilly to us. A surprise?

    The EU has established “The European Ombudsman” in 1993 (Maastricht Treaty Art 138e TEC) now Art 228 TFEU – not the CoE!

    Shouldn’t it be called The EU Ombudsman- or pc- “EU Ombudsperson”?

    This Ombudsman enjoys immunity, the remuneration, allowances and pension has the same rank as a judge at the Court of Justice of the European Communities. However, this important post is filled by an “ex Irish journalist” Why?

    Of course, the Ombudsman has no power to make legally binding decisions, nor is The “European Code of Good Administrative Behavior” a legally binding text!

    Why has the EU chosen a “journalist” to adjudicate on rather complicated EU matters, instead opting for a professional neutral “fit and proper person”- like a retired Judge and established a legally binding “Code of Conduct of “Good Admin Behavior”?

    Shouldn’t we have a “EU Public Protector” with the powers to investigate EU Commissioners, EU Presidents etc?

    Surprise- or?

  10. avatar

    And this sort of question is meant to get us enthusiastic about the EU?

  11. avatar
    Eleni Kapa

    Wrong. Simple employees are not allowed to do so by their contracts, as they are bound by confidentiality even for years after leaving their job.

  12. avatar

    It’s the only reason they work for the EU in the first place.

  13. avatar

    How would then be safeguarded the confidentiality requested for every job, ever the juniors ones?

  14. avatar

    The question is wrong. The answer to the wrong question is of course it depends, or The question should be: Is it wrong for former EU officials to misuse its posts for own benefit? Ergo: Did Barroso misused his influence while he was in office, trusted for working for all EU citizens, to benefit his future employer? Yes or No? Should the EU commission not be investigating this matter, as it is very vital for the EU to clarify the matter.

  15. avatar

    with a proper test for conflict of interest this should not be a problem. It works both ways. A regulator that’s ignorant of industry can’t regulate. An industry that is ignorant of regulation is not in the public interest.

  16. avatar

    Depending on the level in which they worked, they should be obliged to wait between 1-3 years.

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