Ex-Irish EU commissioner quits bank in ethics row

7th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Irish European Union commissioner Charlie McCreevy has quit his post at a British investment bank after coming under pressure to respect rules on ethics, sources said Thursday.

A standards committee at the EU's executive commission, which controls the largest share of the bloc's estimated 140-billion-euro annual budget and many of the economic levers over European society, gave a "negative opinion" on his new directorship, an EU source told AFP.

It had earlier allowed McCreevy to retain a similar role with Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair. McCreevy had managed the internal market during his time in Brussels at the heart of the world's biggest open trading bloc before moving on in February at the end of his mandate.

NBNK Investments said on its website that "Mr McCreevy has resigned from the board with immediate effect in order to comply fully with his obligations."

It is the first time that an ex-commissioner has been forced to give up lucrative private-sector employment because of a possible conflict of interest under an ethics system that came into force in 2003.

The system obliges departing commissioners to notify Brussels of all offers for 12 months after leaving office.

German media revealed last month that a host of top European political figures, including current Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, were still on the EU's payroll under resettlement schemes.

The Financial Times Deutscheland said that McCreevy receives an 11,000-euro "transition" allowance per month from the commission, although permitted income would be deducted from that.

In total, it said Brussels still pays 17 former commissioners at least 96,000 euros a year even after landing plum jobs in lobbying or politics.

Others on a list obtained by AFP include British Labour politician Peter Mandelson and French constitutional court member Jacques Barrot.

NBNK Investments was set up by City of London heavyweights with the express aim of forming a new High Street bank.

The company was eyeing the acquisition of banks that Brussels ordered Britain to break up in exchange for allowing anti-competitive state aid during the depths of the financial crisis.

Olivier Hoedeman of private anti-corruption watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory told AFP that "it would have been really cynical had McCreevy profited in this way from a financial crisis where many criticised him for having partly pushed laissez-faire policies."

The commission -- the guardian of budget discipline in a continent where governments are cutting public sector wages to reduce huge deficits -- stressed last month that the payments were a helping hand in line with its rules.

The basic monthly salary of a commissioner is around 20,300 euros, excluding other perks.

The Open Europe think tank estimates that European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso makes as much as US President Barack Obama: 400,000 dollars per year.

© 2010 AFP

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