Martin Selmayr’s appointment as Secretary General of the European Commission – an ‘astonishing power grab’ as Jean Quatremer put it – has been the talk of Brussels for the past month.
Selmayr, who was previously Jean Claude Juncker’s chief of staff, has vowed to act as the ‘heart and soul’ of the Commission since taking up his powerful new role. But Selmayr’s sudden replacement of Alexander Italianer has not been universally popular. Mr S has been keeping a keen eye on the European Parliament – where furious MEPs yesterday demanded that Mr Juncker reconsider his naked opportunism in installing Mr Selmayr:
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) March 12, 2018
Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld slammed the Commission’s ‘sheepish’ attitude:
I am left completely speechless at the scene of 28 powerful politicians selected for the political leadership of this continent, but led by the nose by a civil servant. The political Commission of Mr Juncker sheepishly signing on the dotted line… and if the Commissioners are so easily intimidated by a civil servant, if they act like helpless children when confronted with an unexpected staff decision, then how can we expect them to stand up for the European interests against Trump, for example, in a trade war?… Selmayrgate destroys all the credibility of the European Union as a champion of integrity and transparency in public administration, at times when public trust in the European [Union] is low, this is devastating.
Arch-federalist Guy Verhofstadt’s decision to support in ‘t Veld isn’t good news for Juncker. Verhofstadt and Juncker are old friends but #Selmayrgate is rapidly becoming a divisive issue. The Santer Commission, which Verhofstadt mentions in his tweet, refers to Jacques Santer, who led the European Commission from 1995 to 1999. His role was cut short after allegations of corruption emerged. Mr S will be staying tuned to see how this one plays out for Junker and Selmayr.