MEPs threaten to postpone approval of Commission budget amid Selmayr row

Written by Martin Banks on 12 March 2018 in News

MEPs say that the case of Martin Selmayr, whose promotion to head the Commission’s civil service has sparked fury, shows that “promotion of  EU posts must go to the best not to the best connected.”

Martin Selmayr | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual

The comments, by the Greens, come on the eve of a debate in Strasbourg on Monday on the “integrity” of the Commission, focusing in particular on the recent appointment of Selmayr as the Commission Secretary-General in charge of over 30,000 staff.

The group said Parliament “must be given the chance to properly scrutinise his appointment.”

The first item on the agenda of the plenary this week will see Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Human Resources, explain to MEPs the recruitment process that saw Selmayr promoted to Secretary-General in what the ECR group calls “an unprecedented move that was shrouded in secrecy.”


An ECR group spokesperson said, “While the Commission insists that no rules have been broken, various worrying allegations have since surfaced, casting serious doubts over the whole process. We believe the Commission should be given the chance to explain themselves to MEPs before we take a view on what further action needs to be taken.”

What is known is that on 21 February, the college of Commissioners appointed Selmayr as deputy Secretary-General. To the surprise of the vast majority of the college, Alexander Italianer, the man who had over 30 years service in the EU and who Selmayr has now replaced, announced his retirement. Within minutes, the college appointed Selmayr as Secretary General to fill the sudden vacancy.

The Commission spokespersons do not refute that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker knew of Italianer’s intention to resign over two years in advance.

Juncker has now been ordered by MEPs to “satisfactorily explain if the normal procedures have been followed” with the appointment of Selmayr, which took effect from 1 March.

Speaking ahead of Monday’s debate, UK Tory MEP Amjad Bashir said, “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.”

Greens/EFA MEP Bart Staes, who sits on the European Parliament’s budgetary control committee, commented, “The case of Martin Selmayr is the latest in a series of inconsistencies in the allocation of posts, lobby meetings and financial contributions within the European Commission.”

His colleague, Sven Giegold, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on transparency, integrity and accountability of the EU institutions, has called on Parliament to now postpone the discharge of the European Commission’s budget.

The German said, “Jobs in European institutions must be going to the best and not to the best connected. It is not about the person Martin Selmayr, but rather his promotion procedure. Allocation of posts in a cloak and dagger manner will only seem suspicion of nepotism and render Europe vulnerable to populists’ argumentation. 

“Positions in all EU institutions must be advertised openly. There must be no exceptions for top positions. On the contrary, top posts in particular must be filled transparently and to the best of our ability, because they play a special public and political role.

“Until the nebulosity regarding Selmayr’s promotion has been clarified, the European Parliament must put the discharge of the Commission’s budget on hold. 

“The Selmayr appointment affair adds up to a chain of dubious lobby meetings and suspicious remunerations. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker must put forward credible proposals to dispel doubts about the integrity of the European Commission. Meanwhile, the Commission must act quickly, a delay of inconsistencies would be an election campaign gift for the EU sceptics for next year’s European election campaign.”

Selymayr, previously Juncker’s chief of staff, was not immediately available for comment.


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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