Selmayr's appointment causing trouble in Brussels

The European Parliament has now also taken a closer look at Martin Selmayr's controversial appointment as secretary-general of the EU Commission. With this move the former head of EU Commission President Juncker's cabinet became Brussels' top civil servant on March 1. Commentators criticise the manner in which he was appointed saying it will further tarnish the EU's image.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Ammunition for Eurosceptics

The political collateral damage in the Selmayr case is already immense, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“Everyone who sees Brussels as a synonym for self-righteous apparatchiks who seem to think the world revolves around them will see this ruling as confirmation of their views. At a time when Euro-scepticism is still virulent, it would seem advisable to refrain from nurturing such scepticism and not to go back on the promises of increased transparency and proximity to the citizens made under the impression of the Brexit vote. In one resolution draft of the European Parliament there was talk of a 'coup campaign'. That is rhetorical exaggeration. But the event has certainly not improved the reputation of Brussels.”

Trud (BG) /

Nothing new here in Eastern Europe

So cronyism works the same way in the West as it does in the East, Trud surmises, commenting on Martin Selmayr's appointment:

“For weeks the name Selmayr has been a source of tension in Brussels' corridors of power. ... In Brussels, as in every closed ecosystem, there are the hunters and the hunted. Martin Selmayr, fondly known among the officials of the European Commission as 'Rasputin' or 'the Beast of Berlaymont', is definitely among the former. He's at the top of the European administration food chain. How he got there, however, is reminiscent of practices we are more familiar with in the countries east of Vienna rather than the so-called 'Western democracies'. No one can try to tell us now that it's not the same everywhere.” (DE) /

Time for an honest personnel policy

The Selmayr affair is damaging Commission President Juncker's credibility, observes:

“This is making the EU vulnerable to attacks by Eurosceptics and populists. And that's highly dangerous - particularly at a time when anti-European and right-wing parties are increasingly participating in government, for example in Austria. And when populists are gaining major support, as the Italian elections recently demonstrated. And with this post-shuffling the EU makes itself even more unpopular among many citizens. It's no surprise that people are growing weary of politics. The EU Commission must change its promotion procedure. All posts, in particular the top posts, must be advertised and there must be several genuine contenders. Only this way does Juncker's Commission stand a chance of restoring its credibility.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Juncker breaking his promises

The EU cannot afford to indulge in such cronyism, Le Monde concurs:

“In view of the growing anti-European and anti-system sentiment, fourteen months before the European elections Brussels must be careful not to project the image of an elite that is out of touch with the people. At the worst moment possible the Selmayr affair, involving a technocrat who is responsible only to his mentor, conveys the image of an administration that lives in a bubble in which vain careerism and power games rule the day. Jean-Claude Juncker set himself the goal of focusing on essential topics and putting an end to the procedural bureaucratic morass in which Europe has lost its soul - and its popularity. More than a faux pas, this nomination shows that he has forgotten this commitment.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Clash of EU cultures

The protests from Paris at Selmayr's appointment are understandable, De Morgen's EU correspondent Jelte Wiersma writes:

“Almost all the top posts in the EU have gone to Germans in recent years. So you can understand why the French are making a fuss over this affair. As a large country they were entitled to many top positions, but they'll lose this right by renouncing the nationality system. According to the new loyalty model - already known in Germany and Belgium - officials are chosen according to their political party. Not objectivity or nationality count, but the 'right' views. ... The Selmayr affair is all about power, yes, but above all it's about culture.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Bad for the EU's credibility

The Süddeutsche Zeitung sees the haggling over Europe's top posts as damaging:

“A year and a half before a new EU Commission takes over it's already clear who will lead the institution. ... In the case of Selmayr what counts for the German government is that his appointment means Germany gets to present the authority's most powerful official. So its influence in the Commission is guaranteed no matter who becomes president under him in 2019. From the German point of view Selmayr's appointment can even be seen as a double coup. It gives Berlin a free hand to push its own candidate right to the top when it comes to deciding who will be the next president of the European Central Bank. This may be in the national interest. But it doesn't help Europe's credibility.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Pact between Berlin and Paris

The new German-French EU is taking shape, La Repubblica observes:

“With the new ECB vice president de Guindos the countries of the north, led by Angela Merkel, have made their move to pave the way for Jens Weidmann to succeed Mario Draghi as head of the ECB. The Mediterranean countries will do everything in their power to prevent this. But Berlin, strengthened by the pact with Paris, is unlikely to accept a candidate it doesn't want. The pact foresees the EU Commission presidency going to a Frenchman. This thesis is corroborated by the nomination of the German Selmayr, because as secretary general of the Union's executive he can control all Brussels' activities. Juncker's post would then go to a Frenchman in 2019. The chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is in pole position to take over that position.”