The Brief, powered by EURIMA – The Juncker Commission leftover

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [PATRICK SEEGER/EPA]

Leftovers are, by their very nature, often overlooked and forgotten. Let’s not forget this one. The outgoing European Parliament passed last March a resolution calling, among other things, on the next Commission to review the controversial appointment of Martin Selmayr as secretary-general of the EU executive.

Juncker’s former chief of staff was promoted in a coup-like stunt to the post of Commission secretary-general in February 2018, seizing a position considered to be one of the most influential in Brussels.

MEPs cried foul but did not succeed in ousting him. This is how they appealed to the next Commission president to do what Juncker refused.

Right now, Selmayr is playing the Amphytrion with the designate Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, a perfect stranger to Brussels (though she happened to be born here), who definitely needs expert advice. One of Selmayr’s closest aides, Mina Andreeva, is embedded into von der Leyen’s transitional team.

Andreeva dropped an important hint on Monday (8 July), saying there was no written rule preventing a Commission president to have a secretary-general of the same nationality. So Selmayr may very well be planning to stay.

But this is not necessarily acceptable for many capitals.

Von der Leyen was designated by EU leaders precisely to be a weak Commission president, despite the fact that she is German. It’s the flavour of our times: when member states perform as the lead singers, the Commission president should be happy doing the backing vocals.

But if von der Leyen is confirmed, in tandem with Selmayr, Berlin will hold too much power in the Berlaymont.

The solution would be for Selmayr to go: “leave in the interest of service”, something the vote of the previous Parliament made very clear.

And there may be a great job opening for him, possibly available from 1 November, when the new Commission officially takes office: EU ambassador to the UK, a very important third country from that same day.


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The Roundup

By Zoran Radosavljevic

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras is out, Kyriakos Mitsotakis is in after Sunday’s parliamentary election. Our exclusive report is here.  Voters also kicked neo-Nazis out of the Greek parliament.

Still in the region, Bulgaria and North Macedonia – an EU member and a candidate country – have decided to jointly host the presidency of the so-called Berlin Process for the Western Balkans. The unusual decision was taken at a summit in the Polish city of Poznań last week.

In a wide-ranging interview, Russia’s Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov speaks about nuclear arms control, the EU elections and top jobs, the situation in Ukraine, including the MH17, and America’s bid to challenge Russian gas.

The European Union urged Iran on Sunday to stop actions that would undermine a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was in touch with other parties to the deal and may set up a joint commission to look into the issue.

On Monday, Iran threatened to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up its enrichment of uranium to 20% purity as its next potential big moves away from a 2015 nuclear agreement that Washington abandoned last year.

Look out for…

Ecofin (Economic and Financial Affairs Council).

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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