The Brief – Taxi for Selmayr!

The Brief is Euractiv's evening newsletter.

In poise, stature and countenance, he appears an unremarkable man. But Martin Selmayr carries with himself the sign and semblance of an altogether unsavoury part of the European Union.

On Thursday, by an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament took a stand against the highly controversial appointment of Selmayr, who was promoted in February to the post of secretary-general of the European Commission, the EU’s top civil servant, with a job for life.

Earlier in the year, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly concluded that the Commission did not follow protocol in the rushed and secretive appointment of Selmayr, and undermined public trust in the EU civil service.

The Parliament “strongly regrets the Commission’s decision to confirm Mr Selmayr as its new Secretary-General, disregarding the extensive and widespread criticism from EU citizens and the reputational damage caused to the EU as a whole,” the text approved by MEPs on Thursday reads.

Eleonora Evi, the MEP leading the report, told EURACTIV: “Mr Selmayr must resign as Secretary-General of the European Commission: this is what I requested in my report and this has been backed yesterday by the EP plenary vote.”

“The Commission on this case violated the principles of transparency, ethics and rule of law. This is regrettable.”

Moreover, MEPs have not been the only ones seeking to hold the Commission to account on the appointment of Selmayr.

Not long after his February appointment, journalists sought to press Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas on the controversy behind Selmayr’s swift elevation. Schinas was unrelenting in his defence.

The exchange between journalists and the Commission was highlighted last week by O’Reilly as another area of concern, as she spoke to several European Parliament committees on the details behind her detailed probe into the Selmayr affair.

Speaking of Schinas’s performance in front of the cameras, O’Reilly said: “It was at times evasive and defensive. Of course, that was somewhat understandable, given what was later discovered about the sequence of events leading to the appointment.”

Yet there should be nothing ‘understandable’ about the recruitment process itself. The Ombudsman’s findings that Selmayr was involved in a procedure that created a vacancy of a deputy secretary general post, which he would later go on to contract the role for, is something that should arouse flushes of embarrassment from the Commission.

In the eyes of Eurosceptics across the continent, the Selmayr affair is merely the latest example of the Brussels bubble at its worst – a bureaucratic stitch-up to promote Juncker’s chief crony.

Parliament’s standing is clear: do away with Europe’s Henry VIII and serve the public with a civil branch graced by the merits of decency and good taste.

“The EU must become a “glass palace” where the highest principles of ethical, integrity and transparency must be the core elements,” Evi said.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

The last European summit of the year grappling with Brexit, budget and migration is over (thank God)! There were merely warm words but no Brexit concessions, as UK’s Theresa May left Brussels empty-handed.

For those who missed the drama, read our live coverage here to join the pub conversations tonight.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tony Blair says that Britain and the EU should prepare for a second Brexit referendum because parliament will probably fail to agree on a divorce deal and the public will need to break the deadlock.

The European Defence Fund moved closer to becoming reality this week in Strasbourg when MEPs gave it the green light. However, some uncertainties persist as a legal expert opinion obtained by EURACTIV suggests that establishing the fund could be violating EU law.

For Juncker’s former chief the nightmare continues: MEPs call for the resignation of Martin Selmayr, the former right-hand man of Commission chief Juncker whose rushed promotion earlier this year was criticised as “a coup-like action”.

MEPs in the European Parliament have signalled their support in clear and uncertain terms for the taxation of digital services, during a vote in Strasbourg.

Climate change-related migration is a big issue at COP24. The idea, which involves issuing passports to the citizens of small Pacific island countries at risk of disappearing, is making its beginnings.

Two of 196 signatory countries to Paris Agreement have raised their climate ambitions. While states are struggling to get involved, businesses are trying to move forward.

In this week’s edition of Tweets of the Week  we look at the outrage over the Strasbourg attack, democracy in Hungary which continues to crack, and Theresa May avoids the sack.

Look out for…

COP24 talks enter the final stage.

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