Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

MEPs condemn Selmayr job 'coup' but no resignation call

  • Martin Selmayr's (l) move to EU Commission secretary general 'stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law,' MEPs say (Photo: European Commission)

MEPs have said that the appointment of Martin Selmayr as European Commission secretary general was a "coup-like action" but they will not ask for his resignation.

"The two-steps nomination of the secretary general constitutes a coup-like action which stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law," says the draft of a European Parliament resolution published on Wednesday (28 March).

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  • EU Parliament secretary general Klaus Welle was also the institution president's head of cabinet when he was appointed to his job (Photo: European Parliament)

At a college meeting in February where commissioners were not aware of the move in advance, Selmayr was first appointed deputy secretary general, and then within minutes he was moved up to secretary general - after the incumbent's surprise resignation.

Selmayr was until then the powerful head of cabinet of commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

At a hearing on Tuesday, the commissioner in charge of the institutions's human resources, Guenther Oettinger, told the parliament's budgetary control committee that the move was "fully in line with the regulations," and that Selmayr "fulfilled the legal requirements."

In their draft resolution, however, MEPs pointed out to a series of irregularities.



'Against the spirit of staff regulations'

They noted that Juncker and Selmayr "had been aware since 2015 of the intention of the former secretary-general to retire soon after 1 March 2018," that "this knowledge would have allowed for a regular appointment procedure" with publication of the job vacancy.

They pointed out that the double appointment was not on the agenda of the 21 February meeting and that "this procedure seems to have taken all other members of the college by surprise and avoided a debate among the commissioners."

They said that they were "concerned that this way of proceeding … could cast doubt on the preceding procedure of appointment to deputy secretary-general insofar as it might not have served the purpose of filling this vacancy in the first place, but rather of allowing for the transfer of this post to the post of secretary-general … without publication of the post."

They insisted that "although such a way of proceeding might satisfy purely formal requirements, it nevertheless runs against the spirit of the staff regulations."

Oettinger's line of defence

The resolution, which will be put to a vote of the plenary session on 19 April, nevertheless does not conclude that Selmayr should be removed from his position.

It merely calls on the commission to review, before the end of the year, the procedure for the appointment of senior officials "with the objective of fully ensuring that the best candidates are selected in a framework of maximum transparency and equal opportunities."

It adds that proper appointments can happen "only through proper publication of vacant posts" and that "the decision-making processes and procedures of the college of commissioners need to be strengthened."

In doing so, MEPs followed Oettinger's line of defence on Tuesday.

"If the spirit differs from the letter [of the law], maybe we have to change the letter," he said at his hearing.

Regulations "were created by you," he told the MEPs who were criticising the opaque procedures used to allow Selmayr to take the commission's top administrative job by stealth.

In the draft resolution, MEPs insist that new rules are necessary in the commission, in order to set setting "an example for the other European institutions."

They also call on "all European institutions and bodies" to avoid "procedures whose sole purpose is to fulfil the formal requirement for publications," and to "put an end to the practice of 'parachuting' in order to protect the regular career progress of traditional European civil service."

"Political influence must not undermine the application of the staff regulations," they note in the resolution.

No moral high ground

Since the start of the Selmayr controversy, many - including in the commission - have argued that the European Parliament has also appointed officials through opaque and politicised procedures.



They pointed out in particular to the parliament's secretary general Klaus Welle who, exactly like Selmayr, was the head of cabinet of the institution's president at the time, Hans-Gert Poettering, when he was appointed top civil servant in 2009.

MEPs seem to have admitted that they could not take a moral high ground against the commission. But they still lectured the commissioners.

The parliament, they said, "is disappointed by the fact that not a single commissioner seems to have questioned this surprise appointment, asked for a postponement of this appointment decision or requested discussion of principle on the role of a future secretary-general in this 'political commission', and on the understanding of that role."

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