One year after the controversial positioning of Martin Selmayr as the EU’s senior civil servant, the European Ombudsman closed an investigation with a sharp condemnation of the procedure used by the European Commission when it appointed the German-born Selmayr to the post.

EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said, “Selmayr’s appointment did not follow EU law, in letter or spirit, and did not follow the Commission’s own rules.” She added that the fact that the Commission also chose to ignore her recommendations was “highly regrettable”.

Selmayr, who was EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker‘s then-chief of staff, became the EU’s Secretary-General last February. The job was not advertised, although Juncker knew months in advance that the Selmayr’s predecessor, Alexander Italianer, would retire. Selmayr was made vice-secretary-general and took Italianer’s place only minutes after he announced that he planned to step down.

The procedure came under strong strong criticism almost from the start with the Commission repeatedly claiming that it has complied with all the rules. The European Parliament, however, later said the move was carried in a manner that was more akin to a coup than a law-abiding process.

O’Reilly made a set of serious allegations in September following a preliminary investigation where she spoke of administrative malpractice and a violation of the EU’s own rules.

The EU’s Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger replied to O’Reilly’s report by saying,  “As we have explained in detail earlier, most recently in our opinion of 3 December 3, 2018, on the Ombudsman’s initial findings and recommendations, we continue to disagree with a number of those findings,” that the Commission has “a different reading of the applicable rules”.

Oettinger claimed that the appointment of Selmayr was done following a  unanimous decision by the College of Commissioners “to appoint a new Secretary-General was in full compliance with all applicable rules”, before adding.

“The European Commission regrets that the Ombudsman seems to disregard the additional clarifications provided,” said Oettinger, before adding that the appointment of the Secretary-General, “should be carried out independently from the appointment of any other Director-General.”