Selmayrgate: 'the whole affair stinks'

18 April 2018

Selmayrgate: 'the whole affair stinks'

In recent weeks SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong has been in the news in the row surrounding the hasty nomination of Martin Selmayr as Secretary General of the European Commission, the highest-placed official in the Brussels-based executive. SP monthly De Tribune interviewed him at the end of the hearing which the European Parliament organised on the issue, on the initiative of Dennis de Jong and other MEPs. In his responses to five questions, De Jong outlines his serious concerns about the appointment.

What was wrong with the appointment of Selmayr?

The whole affair stinks. Selmayr worked until recently as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's Chef de Cabinet – which is to say his right hand man. On 21st February he was appointed deputy Secretary General by the Commissioners. Next the Dutch Secretary General Alexander Italianer announced that he was retiring. Six minutes later Selmayr was appointed his successor! Journalists were justified in finding all of this rather strange and went to the press conference held routinely after each meeting of the Commission intending to put questions. I have watched this press conference a number of times, because the Commission press officer went into a rage, throwing all of his toys out of the pram: why were these journalists interfering? Why did they keep asking questions, like small children? Why could they not understand that the procedure had been completely proper? I could hear alarm bells ringing. What we have here is nepotism. By appointing the German Christian Democrat Selmayr, Juncker is trying to safeguard his political heritage. Next year the Juncker Commission's time is up, Chefs de Cabinet will be changed, but normally the Secretary General remains in post.

But is Selmayr then not a good choice?

In the media he has been dubbed 'the monster of Brussels'. He doesn't hesitate to insult journalists and he's well-known as a political animal who takes his orders from Angela Merkel. With hardly any management experience, he wouldn't have been appointed purely on the basis of his own qualities. It's pure nepotism.

What is the SP doing to counter this?

I mobilised our Intergroup, a network of MEPs from different political groups who come together to promote integrity. We demanded a debate, which was granted and held on 12th March, when Commissioner Oettinger, whose charged with matters involving the Commission staff, spoke before a plenary debate in Strasbourg. It was unbelievable how arrogant he acted. I don't tend to get heated in plenary debates, but when he acted as if we were small children, I snapped. That's why I demanded a hearing and a sort of motion of no confidence. The hearing took place on 27th March in Brussels with the spokespersons on the Budgetary Control Committee, the function I fulfil for our United Left group. Unfortunately, Oettinger was once more present. I'd have rather heard what Juncker had to say, but the big groups didn't think that was necessary.

What happens next?

The next step is to put forward a motion. There was a proposed motion to the effect that the entire appointment procedure wasn't proper, but it wasn't backed. I'm going to propose a number of amendments to the actual resolution, because in my view the nomination must be rejected. Juncker has said that if Selmayr has to resign, he will do so as well. That's all right with me, because this is the umpteenth time he's mishandled something. Whatever else, the European Parliament must strongly condemn nepotism and in doing so, Juncker also. He can't just walk away from this.

Why is the SP concerned with this at this particular time?

I've received numerous reactions from people who can see that the SP is actually the only party which repeatedly fights for integrity and transparency. The established parties bang on about these things, but when it comes down to it they often do nothing. That's why I have to bite like a terrier. I know many fellow MEPs, including some from the big groups, who don't find these things acceptable. We have to mobilise them, if necessary against the leadership of their own groups, so that we can get enough votes for a really hard motion. Brussels depends on nepotism and if we can deal this a blow, we'll have at last drawn a line in the sand. The elite can then clean up their act.

Read what happened when the issue came to the vote in Strasbourg.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the SP monthly De Tribune, April 2018.


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