MEPs have decried the promotion of the "Rasputin of Brussels" to lead the 33,000 civil servants at the European Commission. Liberal parliamentarians have threatened to oust the Juncker Commission over the scandal.
Members of the European Parliament on Monday condemned the sudden appointment of Martin Selmayr (pictured) as the next secretary general of the European Commission.
"What better way to give grist to the mill of euroskeptics and perpetuate the myth of things going on behind closed doors?" Francoise Grossetete of Juncker's center-right European People's Party (EPP Group) said at a parliamentary debate.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced in late February that Selmayr, who had been Juncker's chief of staff since 2014, would take over the commission's top civil servant post, which leads the oversight and coordination of the Commission's various departments.
But many parliamentarians have criticized the lack of transparency behind the decision.
Selmayr had initially applied in January to be the commission's next deputy chief. But minutes after hearing his application for that position had been successful, Juncker reportedly decided that Selmayr would bypass the deputy post and replace incumbent Secretary General Alexander Italianer, who is retiring.
"It smacks of nepotism, unaccountable government and abuse of public funds," euroskeptic EU lawmaker Nigel Farage said. "Thank God the UK is leaving!" he added, referencing Britain's intention to leave the bloc in March 2019.
Liberals threaten to oust Juncker
The Greens have said they would hold up a vote on the Commission's budget in response, while the Liberals said Juncker should backtrack on the appointment.
The leader of the Liberals, Guy Verhofstadt, said the Juncker Commission "will have the same fate" as the Santer Commission if it "is not careful." A nepotism scandal forced every member of the Santer Commission to resign in 1999.
The European ombudsman, which can name and shame wrongdoings in the Commission, said it was analyzing two formal complaints it had received about Selmayr's appointment.
German commissioner defends Selmayr's appointment
EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger, whose portfolio includes EU personnel issues, defended Selmayr's appointment in front of the European Parliament.
"We have done everything by the book," he said, adding that Juncker was entitled under EU law to appoint the top EU civil servant.
"We shouldn't turn Mr. Selmayr into some monster," Oettinger said, adding that Selmayr, who is German, was "not a monster."
Juncker reportedly calls Selmayr "monster" because of his aide's ability to work long hours.
British media outlets have referred to Selmayr as the "Rasputin of Brussels" due to his reputation as a widely feared and ardently pro-EU power broker.
Selmayr's nationality has also raised eyebrows in Brussels amid fears the EU's largest member state has too much influence in EU institutions.
amp/cmk (dpa, Reuters, AFP)