Former EU commissioners receive transitional allowances from Brussels – in addition to their top salaries in business. By Claus Hecking and Ulrich Ladurner for DIE ZEIT
Brussels – Despite the fact that many former EU commissioners already hold lucrative top level positions in politics and the economy, 16 former members of the Barroso commission still receive high transitional allowances from Brussels. This fact emerges from a list which the EU commission had to transmit to the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT. The issuance of the list had been refused by the commission for weeks. It was not until DIE ZEIT suggested the possibility of bringing legal action before the European Court of Justice that the authorities in Brussels provided the list of names of the beneficiaries of the transitional payments to the editorial department.
According to the list, 16 former members of the Commission under President José Manuel Barroso that resigned in 2014 are still receiving a transitional allowance of at least 99 996 euros per annum – in addition to the income from their new employment. Among others the names include former Belgian Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht who – corresponding to DIE ZEIT’s calculations – is entitled to receive almost 125 000 Euros in transitional payments per annum. De Gucht is also a well-paid member of the boards of ArcelorMittal and Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom.
Former Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard also earns double; she has been hired by the Danish climate technology company Danfoss. Romania’s Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș and EU-delegate Janusz Lewandowski – former Commissioners for Agriculture as well as Financial Programming and Budget – also increase their allowances with the interim payments. Short-term Commissioners Ferdinando Nelli Feroci and Jacek Dominik are on the list, too. They were commissioners for no more than 3 ½ months, nevertheless, they have been receiving their transitional allowance of more than 8,000 Euros for more than 20 months now.
The transitional allowances were passed in 1967. They allow for retired commissioners to obtain 40 to 60 percent of their former base salary of minimum 20 832 euros per month for up to three years. The bonus was meant to prevent commissioners from concluding agreements with enterprises and subsequently changing sides towards the end of their term of office out of concern for their future. They are meant to allow politicians to distance themselves from Brussels – to “cool down” as Brussels jargon calls it.
“We do not have any problem with the transitional allowances in general. They are, however, meant to avoid conflicts of interests, as in the cases of De Gucht and Hedegaard.” said Vicky Cann of the non-governmental organization Corporate Observatory Europe in DIE ZEIT. “The system is not working.”