Tuesday

14th Jul 2020

Exclusive

Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings

  • One in every three meetings the German Selmayr had as secretary-general, was with an organisation that represented the interests of German businesses. (Photo: Brookings Institution)

Former secretary-general of the European Commission Martin Selmayr did not keep any records of the meetings he had with lobbyists while he was the commission's highest-ranking civil servant, EUobserver can conclude from e-mail exchanges with the commission.

Selmayr was secretary-general from 1 March 2018 until 1 August this year, during which he held at least 21 meetings with organisations, companies, and think tanks.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

Last month, EUobserver filed an access to documents request, asking the commission to release "all documents - including but not limited to minutes, (hand-written) notes, audio recordings, verbatim reports, operational conclusions, lines to take, e-mails, and presentations - related to all meetings secretary-general Martin Selmayr has held with organisations or self-employed individuals since 1 March 2018".

The access to documents department of the commission's secretariat-general replied to say that the scope of the request was too large to handle by the legal deadline ("amounting to more than 360 pages in total"), and asked EUobserver to narrow down the scope.

It informed EUobserver of the 21 documents which it had identified. All of these were preparatory briefings, written to help Selmayr prepare for the meetings.

Briefings are written before a meeting takes place.

This means the commission had not identified any papers which described what was actually said in the meeting with lobbyists.

Even if the commission wants to keep certain documents confidential, it has to acknowledge they exist. It is not the first time the commission said no minutes of lobbyist meetings existed.

There is no rule which obliges commission staff to produce minutes of their meetings with lobbyists.

But when EUobserver confronted justice affairs commissioner Vera Jourova with the fact that her staff made no such minutes of her meetings with Facebook and Google, she said they should have done so.

"I don't know why we didn't record what we spoke about, and I would wish to have such reports," she said in February.

Most of the lobby meetings Selmayr had in his 17 months as secretary-general were with corporate lobbyists.

There appeared to be something of a geographical bias for the German Selmayr.

One in every three meetings Selmayr had was with an organisation that represented the interests of German businesses.

But he also met with the Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organisations, aircraft-builder Airbus, US investment bank JPMorgan Chase, and DigitalEurope, a Brussels-based organisation that has tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google among its members.

Five Selmayr meetings were with think tanks.

In 2014, Selmayr was Jean-Claude Juncker's campaign manager. He became Juncker's head of cabinet and chief of staff when the former Luxembourg prime minister became president of the European Commission later that year.

Selmayr notoriously became secretary-general last year after a lightning-fast promotion, which was criticised by the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman.

More transparency under VDL?

He resigned as of 1 August, in anticipation of another German, Ursula von der Leyen, taking over from Juncker as president of the European Commission on 1 November.

Von der Leyen has said in her political guidelines, published last month, that the EU institutions "should be open and beyond reproach on ethics, transparency and integrity".

"I will support the creation of an independent ethics body common to all EU institutions," she said.

She also said the EU needed "more transparency throughout the legislative process" and that she would work with the parliament and the Council of the EU to make this happen.

"Citizens should know who we, as the institutions who serve them, meet and discuss with and what positions we defend in the legislative process," said von der Leyen

Investigation

Oettinger left no trace of VW Dieselgate meeting

EU commissioner for the digital economy and society, Guenther Oettinger, met with German carmakers in January to discuss "diesel emissions", even though the topic is not in his portfolio.

Exclusive

Selmayr did not want top job, says predecessor

The controversial Martin Selmayr never wanted the promotion to top EU civil servant, according to his predecessor. That short-lived promotion saw criticism from both the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament as inflicting "reputational damage" on the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Croatia opens for US tourists, defying EU ban
  2. Poll: only 61% of Germans would get Covid-19 vaccine
  3. UK to spend €788m on new UK-EU border control system
  4. Berlin wants first use of EU cyber sanctions on Russia
  5. Erdogan warns neighbours over hydrocarbon reserves
  6. Bulgaria: political crisis amid anti-corruption protests
  7. Pope and Turkish-German leader join Hagia Sophia protest
  8. France and UK create joint migrant intelligence unit

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss

The European Parliament is refusing to disclose documents on an internal debate on whether to set up e-cigarette smoking booths at its premises in Strasbourg and Brussels, posing questions on how it handles transparency on relatively minor issues.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote
  2. EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK
  3. Let's have positive discrimination for EU stagiaires
  4. We need to do more for our small and medium-sized enterprises
  5. Romania's virus surge prompts queues and new worries
  6. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  7. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  8. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us