Martin Selmayr – would you buy a used car from this man? (Image: Daily Mail)
The former Prime Minister of little Luxembourg (population less than Leicester,)Jean-Claude Juncker who now struts the world stage as if he is important, has worked one of the slimiest political stitch ups ever to ensure his favourite sycophant and chief of staff (pictures above, right) was installed as the new Secretary-General of the European Commission, in what one senior Eurocrat has called “an impeccably prepared and audacious power-grab” at the top of the European Union.
At a surprise press conference in February, Jean-Claude Juncker announced he had been keeping a secret: the commission’s top civil servant, the secretary-general, was retiring. Martin Selmayr would take his place.
It emerged that Mr Selmayr had applied for the role of deputy secretary-general, got that job and was then instantly promoted.
It has been suggested that the only other candidate in the race to become deputy unexpectedly and without explanation withdrew, meaning Mr Selmayr became deputy secretary – general by default.
But then the story of the power grab Juncker engineered for his favourite sidekick gets even sleazier.
The coup began at 9.39 a.m. on 21 February, when 1,000 journalists were sent an email summoning them to a 10.30 a.m. audience with Jean-Claude Juncker. The short notice suggested something big was going on — especially as Juncker regards members of the press corps as even lower on the evolutionary scale than citizens of EU member states. And as Jucker is known to loathe press conferences (they keep him away form his beloved of Chateau Petrus (€3000 per bottle) that the meeting had been called was unusual in itself.
The news broken by the President of the European Commissionws was the surprise promotion of deputy secretary general Selmayr, effectively Juncker’s Chief of Staff, to the position of Secretary-General, in charge of the Commission’s 33,000 staff. The reaction from the journalists present was astonishment. No one had been aware of a vacancy. There was no sign that the 61-year-old incumbent Secretary – General, Alexander Italianer had been thinking of retiring. But as Juncker announced other appointments, it quickly became clear what had happened. Selmayr had been given control by Juncker, and anyone who resisted the move had been unceremoniously fired. Juncker had handed control of the European Union’s administrative branch to his favourite Eurocrat.
It has been alleged that members of the European Commission were offered more generous severance packages as inducements to smooth Mr Selmayr’s path, which is vigorously denied. What does the commission’s public relations office say, apart from “Ve haff vays of making you akcept our authority”?
The European Commission’s spokespeople have endured hours of questioning about the promotion. Many of the stories are described as “post-truth”, especially the one about commissioners’ retirement pay-offs. But isn’t everything connected with the EU post truth, perception is everything.
And they say the recruitment process was followed “religiously” which prompted a social-media meme of Mr Selmayr dressed as a nun, but he’s German, the joke would be lost on him.
Martin Selmayr, known as The Beast and The Monster by EU colleagues in Brussels and Luxembourg has always dreamed of being known beyond the Brussels bubble. His wish has now been granted, albeit in not quite the way he might have hoped. It has arrived in the form of a brilliantly executed coup that has handed this 47-year-old German bureaucrat near-total control of the EU machine at a time when in the wake of Brexit and the Italian election and with opposition to the European federalisation project growing throughout the remaining 27 member states, the Union looks to be staggering towards disintegration.
The unseemly hate with which the unpopular Selmayr has been shoehorned into power pushed that process a few more wobbly steps forward.