6th Oct 2022

‘Rushed’ EP secretary-general pick sparks legal complaint

  • Alessandro Chiocchetti shaking hands with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau in 2017 (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

An anti-corruption NGO and a group of lawyers announced on Tuesday (13 September) they will launch a formal complaint with the EU Ombudsman over this week's appointment of a new head of the European Parliament's administration.

The parliament's administrative leadership body, called the Bureau, on Monday evening in a closed door meeting appointed the parliament's new secretary general and several director-generals.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and the 14 vice-presidents and five quaestors, all MEPs, appointed Alessandro Chiocchetti, Metsola's head of cabinet to one of the most powerful positions in the EU bubble.

Chiocchetti will oversee over 9,000 staff and a budget of €2bn, plus huge real estate portfolio. He will be able to influence both the parliament's agenda, and its personnel.

Transparency International EU and The Good Lobby, a non-profit civic start-up, said on Tuesday they will file a complaint with the EU ombudsman for alleged maladministration.

The appointment has been criticised for being rushed — Chiocchetti only takes up his new position in January — and for overlooking other candidates, all of them director-generals, whose experience in administration management has been seen as more substantial.

Metsola's Italian pick was backed as part of a deal among some political groups, including Metsola's centre-right European People's Party, the liberal Renew Europe and The Left.

The Socialists and Democrats, the second-largest group in the parliament, were divided in the Bureau, with two of their vice-presidents backing Chiocchetti.

The centrist Renew and The Left both got high-level positions within the administration.

"The sordid saga to install Chiocchetti as the new secretary-general of the European Parliament is bound to damage the parliament's reputation in the eyes of European citizens and representatives of other EU institutions," Green MEP Heidi Hautala, one of the vice-presidents, said Monday night in a statement.

She added that Chiocchetti was selected from a pool of four candidates after a 10-minute presentation of each candidate — with only Metsola asking questions.

Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia, leader of the Socialists and Democrats said, she was "worried about the damage that this decision can cause to the image of the institution, the internal democracy and the credibility of this house towards the citizens."

However, French MEP Stéphane Séjourné, leader of the Renew group in the parliament defended the deal on Tuesday.

He said that previously the secretary general emerged from a deal between the two biggest parties, the EPP and the S&D, and that he was happy that now there is more pluralism in decision-making.

"I am sorry, but in the European parliament statute it says Bureau decides on secretary general, and the Bureau decided with a vote, with open candidates on who the secretary general will be," he told reporters in Strasbourg.

"We have ended the co-management between two groups, and we are very happy with that, we don't think it was healthy to manage this institutions with just two political groups involved," Séjourné said.

'Institutional corruption'

Transparency International has criticised the deal earlier, calling it a "case of institutional corruption", called for the process the halted and restarted in a transparent and accountable manner.

Michiel van Hulten, Transparency International EU's director, said the way this package was adopted without scrutiny is "unacceptable".

"EU citizens expect the EU institutions to be transparent and accountable, instead of stitching up sordid backroom deals to further the personal and political agendas of senior officials, MEPs and party groups," he said.

"It is deeply regrettable that your institution, which had been so outspoken in its criticism of another institution's outrageous abuse of procedure, now seeks to do the same thing with the backdoor appointment of your next secretary-general," the anti-corruption NGO told in a letter to Metsola last week.

The European Parliament previously criticised the EU Commission for its fast-track appointment of former commission president's head of cabinet, Martin Selmayr to the secretary general position.

Once the complaint is received, the ombudsman's office will analyse the substance and if the issue can be investigated by ombudsman, which could take days or weeks, depending on the complexity.

Metsola becomes youngest EU Parliament president

Metsola's win was actually secured on Monday - after a deal was struck by the largest three political parties, the centre-right European People's Party, the Socialist and Democrats and the liberal Renew Europe.


Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

News in Brief

  1. Sweden: Nord Stream probe points to 'gross sabotage'
  2. Orbán rails against Russia sanctions at Prague summit
  3. MEPs urge inquiry into Mahsa Amini killing and Iran sanctions
  4. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  5. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  6. Danish general election called for 1 November
  7. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  8. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. What actually happened at the 'most complicated election in the world'?
  2. Europe lays aside quarrels to isolate Putin
  3. Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers
  4. EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear
  5. Germany braces for criticism of national €200bn energy fund
  6. The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans
  7. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  8. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us