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Barroso says job controversy shows EU must change mentality

Published on 08/11/2016

Former European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday said controversy over his appointment to a job at Goldman Sachs revealed anti-US hostility in Europe.

Barroso headed the Commission, the EU’s powerful executive arm, from 2004 until 2014, emerging as a high-profile public figure with political and business connections worldwide which critics say he could use unfairly to Goldman’s advantage.

But speaking at the annual Web Summit in Lisbon, the former Portuguese prime minister said Europeans need to change their mentality to catch up with the United States.

He noted that a week ago a European Commission ethics committee had cleared the advisory appointment to the US investment bank, which was particularly targeted by critics over its role in the 2008 financial crisis.

“But the very fact that the issue was raised shows a negative attitude of many people towards international finance, being in this case a United States institution, and it shows there are still a lot of cultural negative attitudes in Europe towards the new world, the financial world, the global integrated world we are living in.

“And I think it’s a mistake. We need a more innovative finance contribution,” Barroso said, arguing that startup companies in the United States face fewer regulatory obstacles and greater access to venture capital than in Europe.

Nationalism and protectionism are certainly on the rise in the United States, he stressed, as US voters headed to the polls on Tuesday to elect either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as their next president.

“But in Europe, in some quarters, there is a negative attitude towards the United States of America, everything that comes from the United States of America, and I think it’s a mistake.”

Such thinking prevented job creation through deeper trade cooperation across the Atlantic, he said, describing hostility in parts of Europe towards a long-negotiated trade pact with Canada as “irrational”.