Monday

19th Aug 2019

Selmayr's promotion 'perfectly normal', Commission says

  • Selmayr (r) was the "best candidate", the EU Commissions says (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission insisted on Monday (26 February) that the appointment of its new secretary general was "perfectly normal and legal" despite secrecy surrounding the move last week.

"It's all according to the rules, the letter and the spirit of the rules," commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told journalists.



Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Martin Selmayr, the powerful and sometimes controversial head of cabinet of commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed last Wednesday during the weekly meeting of the commissioners.

On Sunday, French daily Liberation said that the move was irregular, because Selmayr did not have the necessary rank of director general or deputy director general before the meeting started.


Selmayr was first appointed deputy secretary general. Then the secretary general Alexander Italianer resigned and Selmayr was within minutes appointed to the EU executive's highest administrative position.

According to Liberation, no other member of the college of commissioners than Juncker was aware of the move, including the commissioner in charge of human resources Guenther Oettinger.

The French daily also suggested that, given the timing, Selmayr did not get through the usual procedure.

Winterstein said that "each and every one" of the "stringent and difficult" steps in the procedure were passed by Selmayr and that Juncker's right-hand man was "the best candidate".

He said that the opening for the deputy secretary was published on 31 January, and that two people, including Selmayr, applied for the job

. The spokesman added that Selmayr went to the commission's evaluation centre on 15 February, had an interview and evaluation on 16 February, followed by an interview with Oettinger.

He did not specify however when Selmayr was interviewed by Oettinger.

He defended Selmayr's appointment as secretary general within minutes of Italianer's resignation by the need to avoid a "gap" at the top of the institution.

"What you certainly don't want to have is the most important position being vacant for any period of time, he said.

He said that disclosing in advance that Italianer would leave "would have hampered [his] effectiveness".

Last week, however, Juncker said that he knew since appointing him in 2015 that Italianer would quit his post on 1 March 2018.

The commission spokesman argued that "decisions of such scale are taken with the required confidentiality", but declined to say since when Selmayr knew about the timing of Italianer's resignation.

He also did not deny claims that commissioners were not aware of the planned move before last Wednesday's meeting.

"There was the interview with the commissioner in charge, Guenther Oettinger. That's all I can say. And the college discussed it on Wednesday," he said.

'Cloak and dagger operation'

He added that "the college started at 9.30 and then they discussed this issue, took note of all the facts and then took their decision."

Claims that Selmayr's double appointment was a done deal are strengthened by the fact that a press conference by Juncker and Oettinger to announced the move was announced in an email sent to journalists at 9.39, while commissioners were supposed to be discussing it.

"They kept their cards close to their chest," an official noted last Wednesday, referring to the Juncker cabinet's secret preparations.

It was a "cloak and dagger operation," said Green MEP Sven Giegold, who asked for a investigation by the European Parliament.

"It is unacceptable to put important staffing decisions on the agenda of the college of commissioners without proper advance [notice]," he said in a statement, adding that "the allocation of top positions in public institutions without an open tender is a bad habit."

EUobserved

Juncker too tight in his EU suit

The European Commission president floated ideas on what his institution could look like. But faced with the member state powers, he failed to lay out a structured vision.

EUobserved

At the court of the EU bubble kings

The elevation of Martin Selmayr to the position of secretary general highlights how far the EU Commission has gone in disconnecting itself from what it is supposed to represent: the general interest.

Exclusive

Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings

The German former secretary-general of the European Commission held some 21 meetings which were registered in the lobby register. But no documents appeared to exist summarising what was said.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us