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18th Nov 2018

Parliamentary scrutiny on Selmayr promotion increasing

  • Martin Selmayr outside the European Commission's Berlaymont building (Photo: European Commission)

The pressure on the European Commission to explain questions about the promotion of Martin Selmayr to secretary-general of that EU institution, is increasing.

The issue will potentially be discussed next week at the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg, and was also raised by Dutch MPs in the Hague on Tuesday (6 March).

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German Greens MEP Sven Giegold told EUobserver on Wednesday he thought it was "likely" that the parliament will put a debate about Selmayr on the agenda.

The MEP noted that he had had a "friendly conversation" with Selmayr, and that it was "not a personal issue".

Rather, Giegold said the issue raised questions about the integrity of the institution.

"The commission misled the public about the number of candidates [for the post]," said Giegold.

Selmayr, controversial within the Berlyamont HQ of the commission for his domineering style, was promoted from Jean-Claude Juncker's cabinet chief to secretary-general of the commission at lightning speed, and with most commissioners unaware of the move until Juncker announced it in a press conference.

French newspaper Liberation since then reported that the move was tied to an increase in perks to EU commissioners after they leave office.

On Tuesday, Dutch MPs asked the Dutch government to clarify if that was indeed the case.

Several opposition MPs said the case reeked of "nepotism", but were unable to muster a majority for a debate with prime minister Mark Rutte about the case.

A majority of Dutch MPs did agree to demand a letter from the Dutch government with explanations.

Giegold said that he welcomed it if national parliaments raised questions, but said the EU parliament was the right body to hold the commission to account.

He said that his Green colleague Bart Staes had counted a majority of groups in favour of an investigation into the promotion.

The probe would be carried out by the EU parliament's budgetary control committee, but would not be a full-fledged inquiry committee.

Formally, the committee's coordinators still needs to adopt a decision to start the probe. This has been put on the agenda for 20 March.

The plenary's agenda will be finalised on Wednesday afternoon, although last-minute changes can happen until Monday.

Calls to step down

Dutch MEPs have also criticised the appointment process, state broadcaster NOS reported on Tuesday.

Hans van Baalen, who is also president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe party, was quoted as calling for Selmayr to step down.

"If this happens in Burkina Faso, that country would no longer receive any support and we would say: that is not how you govern a country," said MEP Van Baalen.

Esther de Lange, of the centre-right European People's Party, told the NOS that if the report about commissioners' perks was true, that could harm the entire EU commission.

EUobserved

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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.

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The European Commission's most powerful administrator, Martin Selmayr, has revealed the mobile phone numbers of heads of cabinet, including his own, in a vanity shot.

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