Secretary-General Martin Selmayr looks set to quit next week. The German drew rebukes last year over his sudden rise to Commission general secretary and combatant advocate for outgoing president Jean-Claude Juncker.
A commission spokeswoman texted a curt "yes" on Tuesday on news that Selmayr would quit, apparently in line with an unwritten EU convention that the bloc's top administrator should not have the same nationality as the Commission head.
A departure by Selmayr, reputedly a powerful behind-the-scenes operator within the EU, seemed intended to quell concerns about a German-dominated EU executive.
On Tuesday, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen was confirmed as EU Commission president in a close vote.
France's Guersent to follow?
Selmayr's likely successor as secretary-general was rumored to be France's Olivier Guersent, currently director-general of the commission's financial services department and answerable to Valdis Dombrovskis of Latvia.
The magazine Politico quoted Selmayr as saying he too would quit "at the end of next week" as civil service head of the EU's 30,000-strong administration.
Read more: EU watchdog slams Juncker 'cronyism'
Two weeks ago, he had suggested to von der Leyen that he resign, Selmayr told Politico, stressing that the key aspect was that she win endorsement in the European Parliament to become Commission president.
"I told her that this issue would come up, and that she'd have to respond, regardless of me," Selmayr told Politico. "I told her: The most important thing now is that you win this vote."
Von der Leyen had alluded to Selmayr's intended departure on Monday while addressing the newly elected conservative European People's Party (EPP) parliamentarians, saying the "unwritten rule" applied.
Rebukes over rapid promotion
Selmayr, a frank-speaking German lawyer, drew rebukes last year from then-EU lawmakers and even the EU ombudsperson Emily O'Reilly over his rapid elevation to secretary-general.
At the time, O'Reilly said the promotion risked undermining public trust in the Commission.
In 2014, Selmayr had been campaign chief for Juncker's bid to become Commission president.
At a commission sitting in 2018, Selmayr became deputy secretary-general and then, reportedly within minutes, was elected as secretary-general, the EU commission's top civil servant post.
Guersent, born in 1962 and a former rugby player, is an EU single market and anti-cartel expert, who, according to Politico, earned a reputation for speaking "frankly" with Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's former finance minister, now Bundestag parliament speaker.
ipj/ng (AFP, Reuters)