Europe's lawmakers have called out the European Commission for the secretive way it appointed German lawyer Martin Selmayr to the top civil service job for its 32,000-strong staff. It was a "coup-like," they agreed.
The European Parliament's powerful budgetary control committee voted by 22 to three, with four abstentions, in support of a resolution expressing their disapproval on Wednesday for the way that Martin Selmayr became head of staff in the European Commission (EC).
The committee called on the Commission to "reassess the procedure of appointment of the new secretary general in order to give other possible candidates within the European public administration the possibility to apply."
The committee stopped short of calling for Selmayr to step down after the Commission said it would open a dialogue on future appointments. Instead, the committee said the Commission should "reassess" how the appointment was made to ensure greater transparency in future, and allow other candidates to apply.
Inter-institutional round table
Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who is in charge of budgets and personnel, told MEPs the Commission was "open to constructive discussion."
"We stand ready to reassess, together with parliament and the other institutions, how the application of the current rules and procedures can be improved in the future," he said, proposing to "organize an inter-institutional 'round table' as soon as possible."
However, Oettinger insisted on the Commission's prerogative to appoint its own staff: "Senior management appointments should under no circumstances become the subject of negotiations between member states and political parties."
The European Parliament then backed the motion, adding its criticism for the way Selmayr obtained the top civil service job among the 32,000 permanent and contract employees who work in the Commission. His promotion "could be viewed as a coup-like action which stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law," the parliamentary resolution read.
Two jobs in one day
Selmayr was appointed in February. He had applied for a vacancy as deputy secretary general and faced only one competitor for the job. Th other applicant, who was his deputy, withdrew and he was appointed. Then, the same day, he was promoted to the unexpected vacancy of secretary general, as the man then in the job suddenly announced his retirement.
EC President Jean-Claude Juncker defended the procedure and had threatened to quit if Selmayr was forced out.
German MEP Ingeborg Grässle of the center-right European People's Party (EPP) to which Juncker also belongs, proposed the text for the resolution which was passed on Wednesday. She said that it referred to the procedure for the choice of the next secretary general of the commission, rather than calling Selmayr's position into question.
"That will be a task for the new president of the commission," she said. Juncker's term ends in mid-2019 and Grässle's comment implies that Selmayr may not stay in the top job for long.
jm/rc (Reuters, AFP)