European Parliament to launch probe into Martin Selmayr promotion
German official’s appointment as European Commission Secretary-General branded a ‘cloak-and-dagger operation’ that needs parliamentary examination.
Martin Selmayr | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual
MEPs have voted to launch a probe into the appointment of Martin Selmayr to the top civil service job in the Commission. He was head of cabinet and a close confidant of European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Selmayr has become the new Secretary-General of the executive, overseeing an estimated 30,000-strong workforce.
His appointment, which has raised eyebrows in some quarters, was announced late last month.
- Martin Selmayr named as new EU Commission Secretary-General
- EU leaders to debate re-use of Spitzenkandidaten process for 2019 European elections
- European elections 2019: EU Parliament votes to maintain 'Spitzenkandidaten' system
On Wednesday, members of the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee voted to investigate Selmayr’s promotion.
It is not yet known when the investigation will start or what its remit will be. Its composition is not yet known either although the members are expected to be MEPs.
The move was greeted by the EPP group, Parliament’s biggest group, which said it had called on the Commission “to come to Parliament and answer questions on their process for appointing top officials such as the secretary general.”
It went on, “Questions need to be answered on the transparency, integrity and accountability of the whole process.”
The decision to launch an inquiry was also welcomed by German Greens MEP Sven Giegold, who is tipped to chair the investigation.
The MEP had branded Selmayr’s appointment as a “cloak-and-dagger operation” that “needs examination in Parliament.”
Giegold said the appointment had come as a “surprise and at short notice.”
Giegold, rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions, said, “The appointment of Selmayr to the Commission’s most important post must be examined by Parliament.
“The allocation of top positions in public institutions without an open tender is a bad habit. Avoiding open tenders favours those best known over the best capable” Sven Giegold
“That is why the Greens asked the budgetary control committee for an investigation into this cloak-and-dagger operation. The procedures for appointing top officials should be put under scrutiny.
“The allocation of top positions in public institutions without an open tender is a bad habit. Avoiding open tenders favours those best known over the best capable. It is time for open tenders to become the standard everywhere, especially for the most important positions. It is also unacceptable to put important staffing decisions on the agenda of the college of Commissioners without proper advance.”
The promotion of the 47-year-old German lawyer comes amid growing controversy over his appointment, with allegations of cronyism. Some in the UK press have even nicknamed him “the monster.”
His new role makes him directly responsible for the EU’s “no deal scenario” plan if Brexit negotiations collapse in the coming months. “This is a sensitive role for such a controversial figure and means he will play a big part in defining the EU’s posture in the months ahead,” one diplomat said.
“You have to wonder how the Commission expect Yorkshire people or anyone else to believe them capable of reform or of listening to the public when they make appointments like this in such a cloak and dagger way” - Amjad Bashir
Concern has been raised also by UK Tory MEP Amjad Bashir, who said, “The appointment of Martin Selmayr to the role of Secretary General should be a wakeup call to anyone who still fondly believes the European Union is capable of change.”
He added, “The appointment is said to have been a late addition to the meeting agenda, curtailing the opportunities for any commissioners who may have wished to mount an objection. Selmayr is widely seen as the real muscle and brains behind the Juncker presidency.
“The appointment means he will remain on the Commission executive after the 2019 European election and continue as a dominant figure in Brussels regardless of who becomes the next Commission president.
“You have to wonder how the Commission expect people to believe them capable of reform or of listening to the public when they make appointments like this in such a cloak and dagger way. A prime example of jobs for the boys and contempt for transparency and democracy.”