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Commission questioned over selection process for SME envoy

Image: European Union

MEPs query media reports that business representative scored lower at some stages than alternative candidates

MEPs have questioned the European Commission over its appointment of former parliamentarian Markus Pieper as the Commission’s envoy for small and medium enterprises, following a report that other candidates scored higher at certain stages of the recruitment process.

Pieper (pictured), a German MEP for 20 years, was appointed SME envoy on 31 January, after the Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the creation of the position in her 2023 state of the union address. The high-ranking paid role, which reports to her and to internal market commissioner Thierry Breton, is intended to help the Commission better support SMEs.

The Commission has denied any wrongdoing over the appointment.

Other candidates reportedly favoured at early stages

A week ago, the European Morning newsletter reported that Pieper scored lower than two female candidates for the role when evaluated by external consultants. It also reported that Breton preferred another candidate and was not present when the recruitment was voted on by the college of commissioners.

Now, a group of 14 MEPs have written to the Commission asking it what Pieper scored in the recruitment process and what qualifications put him ahead of the other candidates considering the Commission’s policy to weight recruitment in terms of merit, gender equality and geographical balance.

As first reported by the news website Politico, the MEPs also asked the Commission whether Pieper’s affiliation to the German Christian Democratic Union political party played any part in his appointment, as suggested by the initial newsletter report. Von der Leyen is also a member of the CDU, and she announced earlier this month that she is running for a second term as Commission president, for which she will require political support.

Commission says selection was in line with its procedures

A spokesperson for the Commission told Research Professional News that the selection and appointment were “conducted in full compliance with the Commission’s procedures”.

They said: “In general, in selection procedures involving several stages, the results obtained by a candidate in one stage of the process do not influence the outcome of the subsequent stages.”

“This decision was taken based on a proposal by [budget and administration] commissioner [Johannes] Hahn, in agreement with the president and in consultation with commissioner Breton…It is not exceptional that commissioners do not participate [in] a given College meeting, due to other engagements,” they added.