Next May, EU citizens will directly elect the new European Parliament. Faced with a surge of anti-EU and anti-system sentiments, they need to be reassured that the good old EU is doing things right. But is it doing the right things?
As the old saying goes, it takes a spoonful of tar to spoil a barrel of honey.
With the Selmayr case, the powerful Commission, guardian of the treaties and holder of the EU monies, pitted itself against the European Parliament in March, and now against the European Ombudsman. And of course, it pitted itself against the European press.
In terms of communication strategy on Selmayr, the Commission adopted a style inspired by the Orwellian Ministry of Truth.
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who found four instances of maladministration in Selmayr’s appointment, said that the inquiry was “based on an inspection of thousands of pages of Commission internal documents” that were meant “to make the appointment process appear normal”.
The Commission, which said it doesn’t share the Ombudsman’s views, answered those pages “were unprecedented transparency”. The institution also insisted that trust in the EU, “in particular in the European Commission”, increased during the period Selmayr’s appointment was made.
With this “double speak” in mind, can the Commission really be trusted on other issues, such as the health or drinking habits of Jean-Claude Juncker? Mr Juncker will not be up for re-election, but he and his services are certainly not helping the election of his inevitable successor.
The Ombudsman found that the entire 28-member Commission is collectively responsible for the maladministration in this case.
Indeed, any of the Commissioners could have said something, but nobody spoke. This collective guilt will not go unpunished. Any Commissioner seeking re-election will notice that during the job hearings in the new Parliament.
Will the next president, whoever he or she is, even need Selmayr as Secretary General? Who needs a pebble of this size in their shoe? Why this obstinacy to fight for Selmayr no matter what?
And if Selmayr was such a committed European as all seem to agree, why didn’t he resign?
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By Alexandra Brzozowski
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