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Exclusive: Commission vanguard turn on von der Leyen envoy pick

Exclusive: Commission vanguard turn on von der Leyen envoy pick

The European Commission’s decision to hire Germany’s Markus Pieper to a lucrative official post needs a further look, four senior commissioners have told its President Ursula von der Leyen.

The letter, sent to all 27 members of the EU executive last week (27 March) and seen by Euronews, comes as Euronews exclusively reveals opposition to the appointment is mounting among MEPs, who claim political favouritism.

On 29 March, lawmakers wrote to question the appointment, alleging that Pieper, a member of von der Leyen’s Christian Democrat Union party, had scored worse than other candidates, who reportedly include a Czech MEP from the centrist Renew party, and a Swedish business lobbyist.

“We consider it appropriate for the College to collectively discuss the answer to these allegations as well as the possible impact on the next steps in the recruitment process,” the Commissioners’ letter said.

“We look forward to the possibility of such a discussion in the College of Commissioners at the earliest possible opportunity,” it added, referring to the executive’s highest decision-making forum.

The internal missive is bound to increase rifts within the Commission – a supposedly impartial body, whose members are nonetheless actively campaigning ahead of European elections due in June.

It’s signed by von der Leyen’s most senior colleagues, including Spanish Vice-President Josep Borrell, France’s Thierry Breton, who’s responsible for EU policy on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, and Luxembourg’s Nicolas Schmit, who is von der Leyen’s rival to helm the next Commission that’s due to take office in November.

Breton is from Renew, while the other three signatories are in the centre-left Socialists and Democrats political group.

Pieper was in January nominated to the post of SME Envoy, an official post whose taxpayer-funded salary starts from a base of €17,000 per month.

Lawmakers from multiple political parties are gearing up to formally ask the Commission to rescind the appointment when they discuss the EU budget at a parliamentary session next week, Euronews reported earlier today.

A spokesperson for the Commission previously told Euronews that the appointment had been conducted “in full compliance” with relevant procedures, on a proposal from Austria’s Johannes Hahn, the Human Resources Commissioner who’s also from von der Leyen’s European People’s Party.