EUROPEAN Union ombudsman Emily O’Reilly criticised the EU commission under its president Jean-Claude Juncker today for failure to follow procedures in appointing his chief aide to run the EU civil service.
Publishing the findings of her investigation into the February appointment of Martin Selmayr as the commission’s secretary-general, Ms O’Reilly said that four instances of maladministration resulted from not following rules correctly “either in letter or in spirit.”
At issue were secrecy over the impending retirement of the outgoing secretary-general, an “artificial urgency” to fill the post that went unchallenged by Mr Juncker’s 27 fellow commissioners and Mr Selmayr’s appointment as a deputy to his predecessor just minutes before being promoted to the top job.
Former Irish ombudsman Ms O’Reilly also criticised the commission for “defensive, evasive and at times combative” responses to media questions on the arcane manoeuvres around the publication of vacancies and selection of candidates which preceded an appointment that Mr Juncker and his fellow commissioners were always free to make.
She faulted other commissioners for failing to question why Mr Juncker was rushing through a new job for his chief-of-staff.
EU commissioners publicly claimed to having been surprised at the speed with which the nomination was handled. Many said they weren’t aware that the promotion was planned in advance by Mr Juncker himself.
The findings, accompanied by a recommendation to review the procedure for the appointment of the commission’s top official, do not annul Mr Selmayr’s designation, but it reinforces damage to the EU executive’s image.
The European Parliament had earlier accused Mr Juncker of a “coup-like action” in the run-up to next May’s elections to the “parliament.”
“Our inquiry … shows the precise steps the commission took in order to make the appointment process appear normal,” the ombudsman said in a statement.
Ms O’Reilly said that the way the appointment was handled “risked jeopardising the hard-won record of high EU administrative standards and, consequently, the public trust.
“It is extraordinary that no commissioner seemed to question the secretary-general appointment procedure, which in the end raised valid widespread concerns.”
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