A senior official in the Commission’s legal service committed suicide last December after a distinguished career.
The tragedy is said to be linked to her involvement in the controversial appointment of the Commission’s new Secretary-General Martin Selmayr, French newspaper Liberation reported on Thursday.
According to its Brussels correspondent Jean Quatremer, who wrote a number of investigative articles about the appointment process, the official found herself in a situation of conflict of interests when she was forced to defend the appointment against her values in the Commission’s replies to the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman.
His main allegation is that the official became a victim of moral harassment after she allegedly provided documents to the Ombudsman Emily O´Reilly despite the Commission’s refusal. On basis of her investigation of the documents, the Ombudsman criticised the appointment and 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,” she concluded.
The Commission on its part rejected the content of the article in the strongest possible terms and wrote in a lengthy rebuttal that it was based on entirely wrong claims and anonymous sources. “It makes unacceptable allegations that have nothing to do with the reality of what is a very sad personal story that – out of respect for the victim and her family – should have no place in the public domain.”
In its response, the Commission rejects the claims in the article point by point and refers to the Belgian police investigation that determined that what happened “was suicide in a private context”.
At a press briefing in Brussels (15 March), the Commission chief spokesperson said that the Commission as an institution had provided all the answers on the appointment following a structured process for the delivery of the documents to the Ombudsman. Only the Ombudsman herself can verify that this was really the case.
According to Quatremer, severe pressure and even harassment is an ongoing problem in the European Commission, and several officials in the Commission’s legal service are reported to have committed suicide in the last years.