EU Fundamental Rights Agency: is the Commission’s pre-selection of candidates illegal?

Magician-pulling-a-rabbit-001The ongoing procedure for the nomination of a new Director for the EU Fundamental Rights Agency definitely looks very fishy.

The procedural rules for this nomination are in themselves rather questionable, giving the Commission the possibility to narrow down the choice to a proposal consisting of three candidates without setting out clear criteria for this decisive step of pre-selection. But at least it is clearly said that this pre-selection must be transparent. Here is the wording of the relevant provision, Article 15 (2) of Regulation (EC) 168/2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights:

“1. The Agency shall be headed by a Director appointed by the Management Board in accordance with a cooperation (concertation) procedure provided for in paragraph 2. The Director shall be appointed on the basis of his or her personal merit, experience in the field of fundamental rights and administrative and management skills.

2. This cooperation procedure shall be as follows:

(a) on the basis of a list drawn up by the Commission after a call for candidates and a transparent selection procedure, applicants will be asked before an appointment is made to address the Council and the competent European Parliament Committee and to reply to questions;

(b) the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union will then give their opinions and state their orders of preference;

(c) the Management Board will appoint the Director taking these opinions into account.”

With the best of wills, however, there is not the faintest trace of transparency in the procedure that has led the Commission to draw up her proposal which – surprise, surprise! – consists of two candidates with track records of extremely unusual interpretations of “human rights” that are reflective of their controversial political stances and one candidate with the profile of an apparatchik who has been co-responsible for the FRA’s less than satisfying performance in the years since its creation. Neither has the Commission published a list of all the candidatures that were received, nor did it inform the public of the criteria that were used to identify the most suitable candidates, nor did it explain how each of the candidates matched each of the criteria. In other words, this procedure rather resembles a black hole, or a wizard’s hat from which the Commission may draw out any white rabbit it likes…

It appears that the selection was made at a very high level of the Commission’s hierarchy, probably by Vice President Timmermans (who happens to hold rather peculiar views on “fundamental rights”).

We all know that “success” in politics often depends not of the quality of one’s arguments, but of one’s ability in putting the “right” people into the “right”places. However, when the law so clearly calls for transparency in appointing key posts, such a requirement cannot simply be ignored  without this failure to comply with the law leading to severe consequences. The apparent lack of transparency in the pre-selection means that the Commission’s list of candidates is now tainted with the suspicion of illegality. The Commission should withdraw it.