EU ombudsman slams hiring process of top Juncker aide

Emily O'Reilly did not criticise Martin Selmayr personally, nor call for the process to appoint him secretary general of the European Commission to be re-opened.

EU ombudsman slams hiring process of top Juncker aide

The EU ombudsman on Tuesday savaged the rushed and murky procedure that saw Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff promoted to the body's top administrative post.But she warned that the members of Juncker's commission had not followed their own rules "in letter nor in spirit" when it elevated him in February.

"The Commission created an artificial sense of urgency to fill the post of Secretary-General in order to justify not publishing a vacancy notice," the ombudsman's office said. 

"It also organised a Deputy Secretary-General selection procedure, not to fill that role, but rather to make Mr Selmayr Secretary-General in a rapid two-step appointment." 

"All of this risked jeopardising the hard-won record of high EU administrative standards and consequently, the public trust," the statement warned.

Before February, Selmayr was chief of staff to Juncker, the former Luxembourg premier now serving as Brussels' most powerful EU official.

Juncker himself has reportedly called his German right-hand man "The Monster" because of his reputed work ethic, and critics saw him as a power behind the throne.

Eyebrows were raised when he was abruptly named secretary general -- chief civil servant of the EU's 30,000-strong executive -- with no transparent hiring process.

But Juncker -- and some key EU member states -- stood by Selmayr, and he now seems likely to survive even after a new head of the commission is appointed next year.

In a scathing report, the ombudsman found the 28-strong College of Commissioners responsible for "four instances of maladministration" in Selmayr's promotion.

O'Reilly urged the Commission to develop a specific and separate appointment procedure before the next time it seeks a secretary general.

But the report noted that her "investigation did not concern any assessment of Mr Selmayr, who she understands is both a competent EU official and committed to the European Union."