STRASBOURG — Good news for Martin Selmayr: He doesn’t have to give up his new job (not that it was ever in doubt).
On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority in favor of a report criticizing Selmayr’s appointment as the European Commission’s top civil servant, and calling for the entire process to be re-run by the end of the year.
But MEPs rejected an amendment put forward by three left-wingers urging the Commission to “request that Mr Selmayr voluntarily relinquish the title of Secretary-General until the reassessment of the appointment procedure has been completed.”
MEPs voted, via a show of hands (the Parliament didn’t immediately release the official figures), to ask the Commission to “reassess” the appointment procedure and strongly condemning internal appointments that are not transparent.
However, the report is not binding and so the Commission is under no obligation to do anything about it.
That hasn’t stopped the Parliament from refusing to let the Selmayrgate scandal die down. Re-examining Selmayr’s appointment, the report said, would “give other possible candidates within the European public administration the possibility to apply and hence allow for a wider choice among potential candidates from the same function group and grade.”
The report also urged the Commission to use “open and transparent application procedures” in future and called on “all institutions and bodies of the European Union” to put an end to the practice of “parachuting“ people into posts, which it said damages “the credibility of the EU.”
Following the vote on Wednesday, many Parliament staffers acknowledged that the report was the result of a compromise between those who wanted Selmayr out and those who wished to avoid a direct confrontation with the Commission.
In a statement issued after the vote on Wednesday, the conservative European People’s Party group — of which Selmayr is a member — said the Budgetary Control Committee, which drafted and backed the text earlier this week, “did not find a legal basis for the Parliament to ask for his resignation.”
“We must respect the law,” Ingeborg Gräßle, chairwoman of the Budgetary Control Committee and an EPP member, said in a statement. “No matter how discontent we might be about the process, stable and correctly interpreted legislation gives the necessary certainty to every administration. That same legislation also expects us to respect the autonomy of the European Institutions.”
The Commission “should conduct open and transparent application procedures in the future,” she said.
Another EPP official, who didn’t want to be named, said MEPs had expressed their opinions on Selmayr’s appointment and “done whatever was in our power to get explanations from the Commission.”
“Now our opinion is that we are not going to create a political crisis for the appointment of a high official,” he said.
Inès Ayala Sender, a Socialist member of the Budgetary Control Committee, said her group “worked very hard” to get a compromise resolution, and “we welcome the achievement we were able to reach.”
The strongest criticism came mainly from the media, including Jean Quatremer from the France’s Libération, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the appointment. He wrote on Twitter that the Parliament “criticizes severely the appointment of Selmayr” but “does not draw any conclusion from it.”
“European democracy is a farce,” Quatremer wrote.
Selmayr was Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff. His surprise elevation led to accusations that the Commission had rigged the process. MEPs from across the political spectrum said it stretched recruitment rules to breaking point.
In two Parliament hearings, the European commissioner in charge of human resources, Günther Oettinger, insisted that the appointment didn’t break any rules.
On Wednesday, MEPs also rejected amendments calling for the Parliament to reassess its own appointments of high officials. Last month, POLITICO reported that a group of people had been hand-picked for nine director-level positions, with salaries of at least €14,000 a month, in the Parliament’s civil service.