Presidents of the European Commission should be able to choose their own secretary-general, EU budget chief Günther Oettinger said Wednesday, following criticism of how Martin Selmayr came to fill the EU’s most senior civil service post.
Oettinger was asked during the DLD Europe conference in Brussels whether the Commission could have done anything differently in the swift appointment of Selmayr as secretary-general, which the European Ombudsman slammed in a scathing report on Tuesday.
The budget commissioner said in response that the head of the Commission should be able to choose someone they think is trustworthy and capable of organizing the internal processes of the Commission. Oettinger added that even members of the European Council were wondering why the president doesn’t have the right to choose a secretary-general.
Currently, the secretary-general has to be approved in a vote by commissioners.
“Take my chancellor as an example,” Oettinger said, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Do you really think when she has to appoint a new boss of her chancellery, she would ask anybody? It’s her decision.”
Selmayr’s rapid rise from President Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff to secretary-general earlier this year created a storm in Brussels. European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly was urged by the European Parliament to investigate his appointment, and her report this week concluded the Commission had committed four acts of “maladministration” in the process.
Oettinger said Wednesday that Selmayr is a person that “nobody is neutral about.”
“Many like him and are happy to have him on our team. But not everybody likes him,” the commissioner said. “Therefore it was clear that not everybody was happy with his appointment — in the Parliament, in the public sphere, even in the Commission.”
Still, Oettinger said he is convinced that Selmayr is competent and can fulfill all the responsibilities of the secretary-general position.