Half of Barroso II Commissioners Still Receive Allowance

Half of Barroso II commissioners still get allowance

PETER TEFFER, BRUSSELS

Sixteen former European commissioners are currently receiving monthly payments from the commission’s coffers, even though several of them have already found new, well-paid jobs.

The list of who receives the so-called transitional allowance of at least €99,996 per year was acquired by German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

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A letter to Die Zeit from the commission, seen by this website, was dated 21 October and listed “the names of the former commissioners of the Barroso II Commission that are receiving a transitional allowance”.

They include former trade commissioner Karel De Gucht (left) from Belgium, who also sits on the boards of steel giant Arcelor Mittal and Belgian telecom company Proximus.  (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The commission letter did not specify how much money the ex-commissioners are actually getting, but Die Zeit calculated that De Gucht is entitled to receive almost €125,000 per year.

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From left to right: then commissioners Connie Hedegaard, Janez Potocnik, and Siim Kallas on 29 October 2014, at the end of their term. They still receive a bridging allowance (Photo: European Commission)

Former commissioners receive the transitional allowance for three years after leaving office, and they should pay tax on it.

It amounts to between 40 percent and 65 percent of the salary the official held in office, but if the ex-commissioner starts having income elsewhere, that will be deducted from the allowance.

A factsheet from the commission’s website said the transitional allowance is “capped”.

“If the former Commissioner takes up any new gainful activity, the amount of the new job’s salary, added together with the allowance, cannot exceed the remuneration as a member of the commission.”

While De Gucht’s entire income is not public, Belgian media have reported he could earn €144,000 per year at Arcelor Mittal alone.

In April Connie Hedegaard, Danish ex-commissioner for climate action, landed a job at refrigerator and air-conditioning company Danfoss, but according to the October letter from the commission, she still receives the monthly bridging allowance.

The news is another blow to the public image of the EU commission, and comes after several previous controversies this year.

Former commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso took up a job at Goldman Sachs – a US bank with a controversial role in the Greek debt crisis during Barroso’s term – and former digital commissioner Neelie Kroes was outed as having had an offshore firm during her time in office.

Barroso and Kroes are not on the list of those receiving the transitional allowance, but more than half of those who were a member of the Barroso II team, are on the list, two years after they left office.

Some on the list have new political jobs, like Dacian Ciolos, who is now prime minister of Romania, and Andris Piebalgs, who since June leads the centre-right Unity party in Latvia.

The list also includes an active MEP.

Former budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski receives an allowance from the commission, while at the same time receiving a salary of over €8,000 per month for his work as a member of the European Parliament.

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About the author

Peter Teffer is a journalist at EUobserver

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