The European Commission has responded to concerns that Martin Selmayr’s appointment to its top civil service job broke EU staff rules — and its answer is: No.
Impeccable in its formality, the tone of the Commission’s 11-page response to the EU watchdog’s questions, submitted Friday and seen by POLITICO, is somewhere between an eye-roll and a finger (not the thumb).
Selmayr’s rapid rise to the post of Commission secretary-general — the institution’s highest-ranking official — created a storm in Brussels. A majority of members of the European Parliament called on the Commission to “reassess” the appointment and EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly set up an inquiry into the appointment following formal complaints from MEPs.
Responding to the European Parliament’s statement that Selmayr’s meteoric rise “could be viewed as a coup-like action,” the Commission offered an analysis that is unlikely to calm the waters: “A coup is defined as ‘a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government’ where ‘the illegal and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus occurs.’”
The EU’s executive arm, it went on to say, “does not understand how a decision of the College of Commissioners, proposed by the president and supported unanimously by all the members of the Commission, can be compared with such a ‘coup-like action.’”
The Commission also had a blunt answer to the question of whether the move damaged trust in the EU institutions. In a word: No.
And in full: “The Commission does not agree that citizens’ trust towards the EU has been affected, neither is this assumption supported by the latest Eurobarometer surveys.”
The survey found that trust in the European Commission increased by 4 percentage points in the past year, with 46 percent of respondents saying they “tend to trust” the institution versus 39 percent who said they “tend not to trust.”
Criticism about Selmayr’s appointment is not justified, the Commission concluded, saying it would not accept that “an internal procedure, made in full compliance with the EU Staff Regulations, as interpreted by the EU jurisdictions’ case law and with the Commission’s Rules of Procedure,” can be seen as “damaging the trust in the EU.”
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