EU reprimands ex-commissioner Kroes

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The EU executive reprimanded ex-commissioner Neelie Kroes on Wednesday for not declaring income that would effectively have reduced her pension, but stopped short of legal action after quickly recouping the money.

The European Commission said it had accepted an apology from Kroes in a separate matter, in which its ethics committee investigated her after a leak of Bahamas records showed she had failed to declare a directorship in an offshore company there.

On the financial issue, Kroes notified the EU nine months late about income in 2015 that should have been offset from a “transitional allowance” she was receiving after leaving office.

Kroes, 75, a former Dutch government minister, spent 10 years at the Commission until late 2014 under then-president Jose Manuel Barroso, as antitrust chief and then commissioner for digital affairs.

In August, she irked the executive, now headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, by criticizing its demand for a record €13.5 billion from Apple Inc to repay illegal subsidies. As Kroes was an adviser to another Silicon Valley titan, Uber, her intervention was seen by critics as a conflict of interest with her previous roles.

After newspapers published leaked Bahamas documents on Sept. 21 showing Kroes had been a director of a company there since 2000, Juncker ordered an ethics inquiry.

That found she had breached the code of conduct, but accepted her apology for not realizing that she still held the unpaid post when she took office in 2004.

On Sept. 20, according to a Commission document, Kroes contacted its payments department to report income for 2015. She had declared in January that she had no such income.

Commissioners are entitled to a “transitional allowance” of up to about 13,000 euros a month for three years after leaving office. But if, adding income from other activities, they earn more than the monthly salary of a serving commissioner – about 20,000 euros – the allowance is capped accordingly.

“The Commission, on the basis of the information provided belatedly by Ms. Kroes, recovered immediately the money,” read the Commission’s legal decision published on Wednesday.

Juncker has proposed tighter ethics rules for commissioners following criticism in a number of other cases, notably that of Barroso, who took a job at the U.S. bank Goldman Sachs, fuelling criticism that the EU was run by an out-of-touch elite beholden to global business.