Martin Selmayr named as new EU Commission Secretary-General

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has announced a major shakeup of his inner circle.

Martin Selmayr | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Feb 2018

In a reorganisation of his close team, it was decided on Wednesday to appoint Martin Selmayr, Juncker’s current head of cabinet, as the new Secretary-General of the Commission, the most senior civil service job in the executive.

After over 32 years with the Commission, current Secretary-General Alexander Italianer will retire.

The decision to appoint Selmayr was confirmed by the college of Commissioners at their meeting on Wednesday, and will take effect from 1 March.

The move was met with snark from Parliament’s ECR group; Selmayr is a contentious figure in the Brussels bubble, and is said to be widely disliked among Commission staff.

In a tweet, the ECR group said, "Looking forward to seeing the Commission release the results of the competition held for candidates for Secretary General. Congratulations to Martin Selmayr for winning this open and fair competition."

Reacting to the appointment of Selmayr, Syed Kamall, co-Chair of the ECR group, said, “How does the Commission expect people to believe that the EU is capable of change and listening to the voters when the process for appointing to top positions is so opaque? 

“The Commission should be looking at ways to make Brussels more transparent and democratic, yet this appointment resembles nothing more than jobs for the boys. Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the Commission doesn’t seem to even realise why this is a problem.”


Juncker has decided that his current deputy Head of Cabinet, Clara Martinez Alberola, will become his new Head of Cabinet - the first-ever female Head of Cabinet of a Commission President.

Juncker’s current diplomatic adviser, Richard Szostak, will become his new deputy head of Cabinet.

After the moves were announced, Juncker said, “Alexander Italianer confirmed to me his wish to retire as Secretary-General of the Commission as of 1 March. I want to express my deep gratitude to him for decades of loyal service to the European Commission and over the past three years to me as its President.

“I truly appreciated working with such an experienced and knowledgeable Secretary-General and I want to thank him for his skilful steer of our administration, as well as for having agreed to stay on for another month to ensure a smooth transition. 

“I am also glad that he agreed to continue to advise me, after 1 April, as Special Adviser on strategic issues on the EU’s agenda, in particular the multiannual financial framework and Brexit preparedness."

Meanwhile, as part of the shake up, there will be five new Directors-General and five new deputy Directors-General in the final months of the Juncker Commission.

A Commission spokesperson said, “Appointing the best people to the right positions will help the Juncker Commission deliver strongly in 2018/2019 and beyond.

“Today’s senior management decisions concern key strategic areas of the Juncker Commission’s work, ranging from climate action, research, education, youth and culture via social affairs and employment to the Commission’s Secretariat-General and the President’s cabinet.”

The spokesperson said the appointments will “significantly” boost the number of women in the position of Directors-General and deputy Directors-General from just 11 per cent in November 2014 to 36 per cent now.

This is the result of Juncker’s aim to reach a target of 40 per cent by 31 October 2019. 

European Commissioner Günther Oettinger, in charge of budget and human resources, commented, “By appointing the best people to the right positions, we are determined to use the current window of opportunity and deliver on our political agenda. 

“We are building on the experience of our senior managers, making sure they continue to serve the interest of this institution. I will continue to place a strong emphasis on achieving the target of at least 40 per cent of women in the Commission’s management.”


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