Appointment of Commission secretary-general continues to raise questions
Sunday, 18 March 2018
The European Parliament’s budgetary control committee will investigate the appointment of Martin Selmayr as new secretary general of the European Commission. A hearing with the Commissioner in charge of human resources, Günther Oettinger, is expected next week.
Oettinger appeared last week (12 March) at a European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. He made a statement on the “integrity policy” of the Commission and defended the appointment, which he had approved after interviewing himself Selmayr.
“When selecting a Secretary-General, neither nationality nor membership of a political party — if any — plays any part”, he said but did not address the issue of any conflict of interests when interviewing a candidate of the same nationality as his own while keeping the other commissioners in the dark.
Media also continued to scrutinize the affair. The New York Times disclosed in an article, based on an investigation by French journalist Jean Quatremer from Libération, that there had not been any competition for the vacancy as deputy secretary general. Selmayr was immediately transferred from this post to the post as secretary general.
It was also disclosed that the previous secretary general, who according to previous information wanted to retire, had been named special adviser until his retirement. A new organisation chart of the secretariat general shows him in his new post directly under his successor.
He is reported to retire on 1 April which begs the question why the Commission decided a fast-track procedure without real competition to appoint Selmayr, unless the latter was earmarked for the position as secretary general.
Furthermore, the director-general in charge of human resources, whose approval of the appointment of Selmayr was required, had been allowed to extend her job past the normal retirement age in the Commission.
At the press briefings in the Commission, the spokespersons pressed by journalists on the appointment continue to repeat their assurances that all legal procedures have been followed, with “religious” strictness, and that an “eminently suitable” person was appointed to the challenging post of secretary general.
But the Parliament may want to investigate why the Commission did not broaden its search and look for other qualified candidates.