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Aanbeveling van de Europese Ombudsman in gevoegde zaken 488/2018/KR en 514/2018/KR betreffende de benoeming door de Europese Commissie van een nieuwe secretaris-generaal

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman [1]

Following two complaints to her office, the Ombudsman conducted an inquiry into how Mr Martin Selmayr, the then Head of Cabinet [2] of the President of the European Commission, was appointed Secretary-General of the Commission in February 2018.

The outgoing Secretary-General, Mr Italianer, who had indicated his intention to retire to President Juncker in 2018 when he was first appointed in 2015, was replaced by Mr Selmayr without a competition and without any formal consideration of other candidates. As the vacancy was not published, no other candidates could apply.

This was not unprecedented. However in order to be fully eligible for such a direct reassignment, Mr Selmayr first had to apply to become Deputy Secretary-General. Such a position became vacant in January 2018, shortly after the then Secretary-General had confirmed to the Commission President his decision to retire in March 2018. This information was known at that time only by the President and by Mr Selmayr.

Mr Selmayr and another member of the Cabinet were the only two applicants for Deputy Secretary-General. The other member withdrew before the process was completed. Preparatory steps for appointing Mr Selmayr as Secretary-General were already being taken one day before the formal completion of the selection process for Deputy Secretary-General.

On Wednesday, 21 February 2018, the College of Commissioners approved the appointment of Mr Selmayr first as Deputy Secretary-General and then his reassignment as Secretary-General just minutes later, following the announcement during the meeting that the then Secretary-General would step down in March. The retirement of Mr Italianer had not been on the agenda.

Based on the inspection of Commission documents, the Ombudsman inquiry has identified several issues of concern:

  • Mr Selmayr did not recuse himself in January 2018 from the decision-making that led to the creation of the vacancy, and the approval of the vacancy notice, for the post of Deputy Secretary-General, despite the fact that it is highly likely he knew that he would apply for the post and later did so.
  • At that point Mr Selmayr had to recuse himself from taking part in the Consultative Committee on Appointments (CCA), which interviews and gives an opinion on the merits of candidates. However, contrary to the applicable binding rules, no replacement was appointed.
  • Documentary evidence of the sequencing of events shows that the Deputy Secretary-General appointment procedure was not undertaken to fill that post, but rather to make Mr Selmayr eligible for his immediate reassignment as the new Secretary-General.
  • When valid concerns were raised in relation to how the surprise double-appointments were made, the Commission reacted in an evasive, defensive and legalistic manner, which served further to increase concerns.

The European Parliament debated the issue and passed a resolution in plenary on 18 April 2018. Given the facts of the inquiry, the Ombudsman agrees with its assessment that the affair damaged trust in EU institutions and that the double-appointments “stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law”.

Based on her inquiry, the Ombudsman now recommends that the Commission develop a specific appointment procedure for Secretary-General, separate from the procedure for other senior appointments.

[1] Decision of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of Ombudsman's duties (94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom), OJ 1994 L 113, p. 15.

[2] The French term “Cabinet” is frequently used to describe the private offices of Commissioners.

Please see the pdf document attached.