Raised this week by OLAF chief Emily O’Reilly issue of former president of European Commission Jose-Manuel Barroso employment at Goldman Sachs is much broader ethical problem than it seems at first glance. It can hardly be resolved just by formal application of Commission’s Code of Conduct as it is not a unique case, but rather typical for men at power.
The phenomenon of former presidents and prime ministers eager for employment is relatively new. Clearly in times of Pompidou and Mitterrand, when senior figures were seen as the most appropriate for positions of leadership the issue of a new job after the term was not existent. Moreover the physical condition didn’t always allow to serve until the end of mandate, ending in ostentatious funeral.
Nowadays the situation has drastically changed, as politicians end term too young to enjoy calm of domestic environment behind geranium, like German chancellor Schroder, who left office of at age of 54 or British PM Blair, leaving office the same age, and this year PM Cameron even younger at 50.
Clearly just scorning those as Schroder who couldn’t resist temptation and accepted employment at Russian state company Gazprom, or Blair working as adviser for Kazakhstan president, – will not help much in preventing the others to follow their path. A lot of ink has been spilled on shaming Blair for deal with ‘despot’, selling his ‘unique personal experience and insights’ for 5 million pounds a year to demons. In vain.
However a petition of protests launched by European Commission staff denouncing Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs has been rapidly attracting signatures reaching 80 000 in a few weeks. The indignant Europeans disagree with continuation of payment of 15 000 euro a month pension for a ‘fat cat’ serving US bankers interest. It looks the former president of EC will face dilemma, but would simple annulation of pension to Portuguese eurocrat serve a lesson for the others in future?
The issue of ‘after life’ of high ranking civil servants will become even more pertinent in upcoming decade with a new wave of strikingly young politicians like Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, assuming office at age of 27 or Marion Le Pen, entering French National Assemble as MP at age of 22.
If not engaging in broader public debate to work out new rules for young generation of politicians to set clear framework of ‘life after life’ the repercussions might come in the most primitive form of rejection of young for positions in power, returning to old good gerontocracy Brezhnev-Juncker style.
Something to contemplate about: is the only life style for youth to sing about love?
AMOREM CANAT AETAS PRIMA!