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23 May, 2024
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Accusations against Von der Leyen shake re-election bid as Brussels elite speak out

Eurocratic favoritism exposed: Von der Leyen's ally lands €17k-a-month job

Source: The Guardian

Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for a second term as president of the European Commission has been dented after accusations of favouritism in the selection of a fellow party member to a lucrative new job.

Some of the highest-ranking people in Brussels, including the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, and the French commissioner Thierry Breton, have written to her to complain that the appointment of the German MEP Markus Pieper as a special adviser “has triggered questions about the transparency and impartiality of the nomination process”.

Pieper, who comes from the same CDU party as Von der Leyen, was appointed recently as special envoy for SMEs, but MEPs have already questioned whether he was the highest-performing candidate in the selection process. According to reports, the job has a ranking within the commission that commands a salary of €17,000 (£14,580) a month.

The commission has defended the appointment saying it “has every confidence in the fact that the process took place in full compliance with procedures”.

The letter was also signed by Nicolas Schmit, the jobs and social rights commissioner, and Paolo Gentiloni, the commissioner for the economy.

The intervention of senior EU politicians in the controversy is the first sign of trouble for Von der Leyen’s candidacy for a second five-year term at the helm of the commission. She was parachuted into the presidential candidacy process as a compromise candidate in 2019, so this is the first time she has had to run a campaign, which officially kicks off in Greece on Sunday.

Up to now she was considered a dead cert for the job. She has already been selected as the sole candidate for the job by the European People’s party (EPP), the umbrella group of EU centre-right parties to which the CDU party belongs and the largest group in the European parliament.

On Friday the EPP announced Von der Leyen’s right-hand man in the commission, Björn Seibert, was taking unpaid leave to run her campaign. It said he would return to his job after the EU elections in June even though the campaign will not end until September, at the earliest, when the European parliament will be asked to vote on the new top jobs in Brussels.

Member states are expected to back her in a round of political horse-trading that follows the election and decides on the preferred candidates for the other principal roles, including chief diplomat and head of the European council.

But her position is far from guaranteed, with the four signatories of the letter coming from non-EPP parties. Her reappointment after the EU elections will almost certainly need approval by those parties – Borrell’s group, the socialists, and Breton’s group, the liberals – to get a majority vote in September.

MEPs have already expressed concern and tabled a written question to the commission asking how Pieper scored in the internal and external assessments.

The EurActiv website reported that the Czech MEP Martina Dlabajová and Sweden’s Anna Stellinger “both scored higher than Pieper in the assessments by at least 30%”, while Transparency International has called for an investigation into a potentially flawed appointment process.

[Source: The Guardian]

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