If I were a novelist, I should take José Manuel Barroso as the model for my hero, or perhaps I should say my anti-hero. Only Stendhal, or perhaps Balzac, could do justice to his trajectory in life: from revolutionary Maoist student to Prime Minister of Portugal to chief apparatchik of the European Union to vice-president of Goldman-Sachs with special responsibility for advising the bank on how to mitigate the effects of Brexit (for the bank, of course, not for Britain or Europe). If he had been born a couple of decades earlier, he would have been a high-up in Salazar’s dictatorship.
An editorial in the French left-wing newspaper accuses Mr Barroso of treachery: ‘Once a traitor, always a traitor,’ it begins. It then talks of ‘the spirit of Europe.’ However, far from being a traitor to that spirit, he is its very finest instance: a man whose capacity for self-advancement is, viewed from a certain dispassionate angle, admirable. If De Quincey were alive today, he would write not Murder, but Self-Advancement Considered as One of the Fine Arts.
Members of the European Commission are contract-bound to wait eighteen months after they leave office before they seek other employment, and even then to do so with ‘honesty and delicacy.’ If they do not, they can lose their pension; but, as I am sure readers will have guessed, the question of whether they have acted with ‘honesty and delicacy’ is decided by – yes, the European Commission, whose members are hoping for lucrative and powerful positions when they in turn leave office.
One European member of the European parliament, Alain Lamassoure, said that he would like Mr Barroso to lose his pension for having accepted the post at Goldman Sachs, but as the newspaper put it:
It is doubtful whether there would be a majority of Commissioners or countries to go that far, for fear of creating a precedent which could prevent the [European] Commissioners and civil servants from recycling themselves once their term of office or career in Brussels was over.
The attraction of the European Union for those who are prepared to endure its tedium and its requirement always to speak in langue de bois is evident. It offers a golden reward in exchange for the obliteration of personality, character and scruple. It plays Mephistopheles to a hundred minor Fausts.©