Martin Selmayr’s appointment to the EU’s top civil service position has raised questions about the procedure to select him,
Writing in French daily “Libération” on February 25, journalist Jean Quatremer said European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, should never have allowed Selmayr to be promoted to secretary-general as he had never worked in the European Commission’s administrative service, having only previously served as a spokesperson and head of the cabinet.
Brussels’ press corps grilled Deputy Chief Spokesperson Alexander Winterstein about whether the Commission followed its own protocol while selecting Selmayr to succeed Alexander Italianer.
“I cannot accept the notion that the Commission did not follow the correct procedures,” said Winterstein, who also expressed surprise at the amount of attention the selection process had garnered since Selmayr’s appointment was announced on February 23.
According to Winterstein, the Commission was not willing to leave the secretary-general seat vacant after Italianer’s retirement, adding that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the move to fill the position so soon afterItalianer’s announced departure.
Describing the process as having been “by the book”, Selmayr’s name was first floated on February 16. The Commissioner responsible for the process – in this case, Oettinger – then opened discussions about Selmayr’s candidacy, who was one of either two or three candidates put forward. With so few names to consider, the shortlisting process became redundant.
Winterstein said the Commission had the option of choosing a new secretary-general through an application process, or by re-assigning the deputy secretary-general. The Commission briefly made Selmayr deputy secretary-general in order to follow the procedural rules to promote him to secretary-general, which was described by Winterstein as a standard course of action by the Commission.
The College of Commissioners was notified of Selmayr’s appointment at the last minute on February 23 and a press conference was called only moments later to announce that Selmayr was the new secretary-general.