Greens furious after MEPs agree to discharge Commission budget despite 'Selmayrgate' row

Parliament’s ‘grand coalition’ between the EPP and ALDE groups has been accused of “going soft” on the European Commission over the Martin Selmayr affair.

European Commission | Photo credit: Fotolia

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

27 Mar 2018

The attack, from the Greens/EFA group, comes after Parliament’s budgetary control committee, on Monday, agreed to the discharge of the Commission’s budget for the past year.

The committee voted in favour of granting the Commission the discharge, with 16 votes in favour to seven against. The plenary is now set to back the discharge during the part-session in April.

At Monday’s committee meeting, the Greens/EFA group tabled an amendment expressing “concern at the lack of transparency and a possible breach of Union’s rules on recruitment by recent appointment of the Commission’s President’s head of office as the new secretary general of the Commission; calls on the president of the Commission to provide the discharge authority with a thorough explanation of processes and procedures taken for this appointment.”


However, the amendment was defeated by one vote, with the EPP and ALDE group members of the committee voting against it. The S&D group abstained.

The Greens/EFA group also put forward another amendment calling for the discharge of the Commission’s budget to be postponed “until there has been time for proper scrutiny.” This was also not supported by the majority in committee.

Later on Tuesday, MEPs will quiz the Commission about alleged serious irregularities in Selmayr’s appointment. At the weekend, the Commission’s 80-page response to 134 questions tabled by MEPs about the Selmayr affair was published.

The decision to vote down the Greens amendment on Monday was condemned by Greens/EFA MEP Bart Staes, who sits on the budgetary control committee.

On Tuesday, the Belgian deputy said, “It beggars belief that the EPP, Liberals and Socialists could not bring themselves to back criticism of the European Commission’s handling of Martin Selmayr’s appointment.

“Tuesday’s hearing should have been an opportunity to strongly challenge the Commission but the EPP and others blocked our demand to invite Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Selmayr to face questions and have a real debate.

“With serious concerns about cronyism, now is not the time for the grand coalition to be going soft on the Commission.”

The EPP and ALDE group entered into an informal agreement relating to several measures, including on committee voting, after election of Parliament President Antonio Tajani last year, an arrangement referred to as the ‘grand coalition’.

Further criticism of the EPP, ALDE and S&D, the three mainstream parties, came from German Greens/EFA MEP Sven Giegold.

He said, “The Commission must increase its efforts towards transparency and integrity and have more open procedures for appointing its top staff. Issuing defensive statements in the middle of the night is not going to restore confidence.

“The Commission needs to learn that transparency and democratic scrutiny are in their best interests.”

He added, “We are now four weeks into a scandal that could have been avoided if the Commission was willing to present its candidate for a top job for proper scrutiny.”

Speaking on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron even entered the fray saying, in a direct reference to Selmayr, that he had “always appreciated the professionalism of the person concerned.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also reportedly said that Selmayr, a German lawyer, “decides in a very European way but is also someone who makes sure that the decisions are effective, and I very much welcome that.”

Later on Tuesday, Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner in charge of budget and human resources, will face questions from budgetary control MEPs on the appointment of Selmayr.


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