European Ombudsman rejects Commission explanation on appointment of Secretary-General

Never ever has the European Commission been so much criticized by its own watchdog as for the appointment of its Secretary-General Martin Selmayr last year. In a decision yesterday, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly rejected the Commission’s response in justifying the appointment.

Following an extensive inspection of Commission documents and written questions put to the Commission as part of a complaint-based inquiry, the Ombudsman identified instances of maladministration in the appointment procedure. “The maladministration arose due to the Commission not following the relevant rules correctly either in letter or in spirit.”

“The College of Commissioners collectively is responsible for the maladministration in this case. It is extraordinary that no Commissioner seemed to question the Secretary-General appointment procedure, which in the end raised valid widespread concerns,” she wrote.

Following the Ombudsman’s findings, the European Parliament in December 2018 passed a resolution calling on the new Secretary-General to resign, which he has refused to do.

The Ombudsman wrote on Monday (11 February) that the Commission’s reply presented no new information and does not alter the inquiry findings. “The Commission opinion does not dispute the accuracy of the sequence of events set out in the Ombudsman’s findings. In fact, it ignores it completely.”

Ms O’Reilly writes that it is “highly regrettable” that the Juncker Commission chose not to implement its recommendation to make the appointment procedure more transparent and looks forward to its implementation by the next Commission. The appointment “damaged public trust” in the Commission and might affect the European Parliament elections in May.

The Ombudsman closed her inquiry by confirming her findings and recommendation.

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