Saturday 19 January 2019

Hogan defends unusual selection of Juncker's 'monster' for top EU job

Jean-Claude Juncker, left, with Martin Selmayr Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images
Jean-Claude Juncker, left, with Martin Selmayr Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has weighed into a row over the appointment of Europe's top diplomat, saying it is not surprising that a key ally of Jean-Claude Juncker's landed the prized position.

Mr Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has been accused of performing a "brilliantly executed coup" by planting his chief of staff Martin Selmayr in the job of Secretary General of the Commission.

The German bureaucrat, nicknamed 'The Monster', is now in charge of the commission's 33,000 staff.

But the appointment has raised eyebrows across the political spectrum, with observers questioning the 47-year-old's sudden leap to such a powerful position.

In a statement to the Irish Independent, Mr Hogan has staunchly defended both Mr Juncker and Mr Selmayr.

The former environment minister said "far too much" has been written and said about the appointment and it is important "to recall some essential facts".

He said: "The appointment was made in full conformity with the rules of the European Commission. This is beyond question."

And Mr Hogan noted the appointment was "unanimously agreed by the College of Commissioners".

"As the vital relationship of confidence between the president and the secretary general is an essential ingredient in the proper functioning of the commission, it can hardly be a surprise that the president turned to his former head of cabinet to fulfil this role," Mr Hogan said.

European media reports have suggested Mr Juncker nominated his aide for deputy secretary general before announcing moments later that sitting secretary Alexander Italianer was resigning.

Mr Italianer had not indicted that he was intending to step down.

Germany's commissioner Günther Oettinger was accused of treating MEPs as fools yesterday when he insisted the commission had done "everything by the book".

An investigation is to be launched by one of the European Parliament's committees into the process.

A vote will be held at a later date on whether the parliament will call for Mr Juncker to reverse the appointment.

But Mr Hogan said Mr Selmayr had the "leadership and professional capacity" to lead the staff of the institution.

"No one can call into question his European commitment or his ability to do the job.

"In a merit-based institution like the European Commission, it is not surprising that someone with such an enormous capacity for hard work, mastery of detail, energy, focus and determination should rise to the top," Mr Hogan said.

"As head of cabinet to President Juncker over the past three-and-a-half years, he has demonstrated these qualities."

Mr Hogan said a line should be drawn under the controversy so that it did not distract from issues such as trade, Brexit, the budget, CAP reform, banking union, energy union, migration and border protection.

"Europe needs strong action from strong and experienced people at this time," he said.

"President Juncker and Martin Selmayr should have our full support to deliver our policy priorities without delay and allow the co-legislators of the European member states and the European Parliament to scrutinise, amend and adopt."

Irish Independent

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