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European Commission Reaction to the article published in Libération on 15 March 2019

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 15 maart 2019.

The European Commission rejects the content of the article in the strongest possible terms. It is based on entirely wrong claims and anonymous “sources”. It makes unacceptable allegations that have nothing to do with the reality of what is a very sad personal story that - out of respect for the victim and her family - should have no place in the public domain.

The passing of our brilliant colleague, Director in the Legal Service, who is referred to in the article, was a shock to all of us who had the privilege and the chance to know her and work with her.

The Belgian police conducted an investigation and communicated to the European Commission's Security Directorate on 17 December at 12:40h CET that it was suicide in a private context.

The Secretary-General of the European Commission barely knew the colleague in question. He had met her only twice - including as part of a bigger meeting. He did not have any contact with her beyond these two meetings; neither did he ever call her.

The claims and insinuations made in this article are unacceptable, malicious and disrespectful - in particular towards the victim and her family but also towards the European Commission as an institution, at a moment when the President and this House are in the middle of very delicate negotiations and processes of critical importance to our Union.

It is the European Commission as an institution that has taken all the decisions related to the appointment of its Secretary-General; it is the European Commission as an institution that has replied to the European Parliament; it is the European Commission as an institution that has replied to the Ombudsman. The decisions of the Commission in this respect are always prepared in cooperation with all the competent services and not by a single person; and they are always taken by the institution and not by a single person.

Using a personal tragedy in such a way is simply inhumane and beyond belief.

Point by Point

« La Commission européenne avait été contrainte de défendre la nomination entachée d'irrégularités de Martin Selmayr, ancien chef de cabinet de Jean-Claude Juncker, comme Secrétaire général de l'institution. »

Laura Pignataro was Director for European Civil Service Law in the Legal Service and as such worked on questions relating to the EU Staff Regulations. This was simply her field of competence.

« Le problème est que le service juridique n'a pas été saisi de la nomination de Selmayr en amont, comme cela aurait dû être le cas […], car ils savaient qu'il se serait opposé à cette magouille. »

There is no obligation to consult the Legal Service on senior management appointments. The decision was proposed and adopted unanimously at the meeting of the College on 21 February 2018. The Director-General of the Legal Service was present at the meeting. Any Member of the College can request the opinion of the Legal Service during College meetings which the Director-General of the Legal Service always attends.

« Une réunion pour rédiger les réponses est convoquée le 24 mars 2018 à 14h30 par le cabinet Juncker. Sont assises autour de la table dix personnes dont, pour le service juridique, l'Espagnol Luis Romero, directeur général, l'Allemand Bernd Martenczuk, son assistant, et Laura Pignataro. Mais, au beau milieu de la réunion, Martin Selmayr, accompagné de son âme damnée, Mina Andreeva du service du porte-parole, entrent dans la salle. Aussitôt, Romero se lève et quitte la salle. »

The Director-General of the Legal Service did not leave the meeting. The two colleagues from the Legal Service who were present in the room worked all the time under the supervision of the Director-General of the Legal Service.

« Car l'arrivée du Secrétaire général dans une réunion consacrée à élaborer sa défense constitue un conflit d'intérêts majeur. »

As stated above, Luis Romero did not leave the room and certainly not because of an alleged conflict of interest since there was no conflict of interest: the answers were drafted under the authority of the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources with the support of the Directorate-General in charge of Human Resources and Security, the Commission's Legal Service and the Cabinet of the President. The Secretary-General contributed to correctly establish the replies relating to him in order to ensure that they are complete and exhaustive.

« Plutôt que de partir, Romero aurait dû exiger que Selmayr quitte la salle, ce qu'il n'a pas fait. Et Pignataro n'a pas osé le suivre de son propre chef : «Romero l'a froidement laissée tomber. Il l'a laissée seule», analyse un témoin. »

As stated above, there was no conflict of interest. Second, at no point, Laura Pignataro was left alone. Luis Romero and his assistant, Bernd Martenczuk, were present at all times.

« Juriste lui-même, c'est ce dernier qui dicte les réponses à apporter ce 24 mars…»

Martin Selmayr contributed to correctly establish the replies relating to him in order to ensure that these are complete and exhaustive. He certainly did not dictate answers.

« Les réponses sont préparées le 2 avril 2018 par la même équipe et, comme la première fois, Selmayr débarque. «Laura, en sortant de ces réunions, était dans une colère noire : elle savait qu'elle avait participé à [une] prise illégale d'intérêts, confie l'un de ses amis. »

2 April 2018 was Easter Monday. There were no meetings on this day. Laura Pignataro participated only in one meeting in which answers to the European Parliament questions were discussed: on 24 March 2018. There were no further such meetings in which she participated involving the team referred to.

«"Je ne peux pas lui mentir, c'est impossible, j'ai donné tous les dossiers à la médiatrice", m'a-t-elle raconté», rapporte l'un de ses proches. »

It was the Secretariat-General's Unit in charge of relations with the Ombudsman who was the interlocutor of the Ombudsman in the inquiry. It provided the European Ombudsman with approximately 11,000 pages of documentation. It was on that basis that the Ombudsman prepared her findings - to which the European Commission replied as well. At no point did Laura Pignataro pass emails to or engaged with the Ombudsman. This was all done through the aforementioned Secretariat-General's unit.

« Selmayr réalise alors que Pignataro est à l'origine des fuites. Il la charge de répondre à la médiatrice et lui impose de n'en parler à personne. La voilà de nouveau obligée de mentir. Le Secrétaire général l'appelle parfois au milieu de la nuit pour lui donner ses directives… »

This is simply invented. The Secretary-General did not call Laura Pignataro. He met Laura Pignataro only twice: once in May 2016 when in his function as Head of Cabinet of the President and on the basis of a shortlist presented by the Director-General of the Legal Service, he recommended to the President to support the proposal from the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources for the appointment of Laura Pignataro by the Commission as Director in the Legal Service. And then on 24 March 2018 as part of the large meeting working on the replies to the European Parliament questions. As stated, above, he never tasked her to work on the replies to the Ombudsman. He met her only twice, he never called her.

« Elle avait l'air terrifiée par l'hostilité de Selmayr »

As explained above, the Secretary-General had only met Laura Pignataro twice and they had no contact at all beyond this.

« Les eurocrates du service juridique découvrent le drame par un message publié sur leur intranet et non sur le fil général : »

The announcement was published on my MyIntraComm - the European Commission's intranet webpage which is accessible to all Commission colleagues.

« Ni Martin Selmayr, ni Günther Oettinger, le commissaire chargé de l'administration, ni Jean-Claude Juncker ne jugeront utile d'envoyer leurs condoléances à la famille. »

The Secretary-General did want to send a personal condolence letter to the family of the deceased but refrained from doing so following the explicit advice of the Director-General of the Legal Service who pointed to the delicate private circumstances. Several members of the Commission staff were present, including members of the President's Cabinet.

« En revanche, «ce jour-là, tous les fonctionnaires ont reçu un message de Selmayr nous souhaitant de bonnes fêtes. On était tous choqués», raconte un des amis de Laura Pignataro. »

The Secretary-General sent only one email to the entire Commission staff, namely on 1 March 2018, the day of taking up his new duties. The Christmas message was sent only to the staff of the Secretariat-General and other staff working directly with him.

« Pourtant Selmayr connaissait Pignataro, puisqu'il l'avait nommée à son poste et travaillé avec elle durant dix mois. »

As stated above, Martin Selmayr in 2016, as Head of Cabinet of the President had lent his support to appoint Laura Pignataro as Director in the Legal Service but the two never worked directly together.

« Dès sa mort connue, les services de sécurité de la Commission mettent son bureau sous clé. Il l'est encore à ce jour. »

Since January, Laura Pignataro's office is no longer sealed.

« L'exécutif européen refuse de dire si des investigations internes ont été menées sur les raisons de ce suicide : burn-out ? Harcèlement moral ? Problèmes personnels ? »

The Belgian police conducted an investigation and communicated to the European Commission's Security Directorate on 17 December at 12:40h CET that it was suicide in a private context.

« Mais rien sur l'absence de condoléances ou l'éventuel harcèlement moral dont aurait pu être victime Laura Pignataro : »

There was no harassment. The Secretary-General barely knew Laura Pignataro.

« Des raisons autres que professionnelles pourraient-elles expliquer son geste ? »

The Belgian police conducted an investigation and communicated to the European Commission's Security Directorate on 17 December at 12:40h CET that it was suicide in a private context.

« On sait déjà que Selmayr va nommer l'un de ses fidèles, allemand comme lui. »

The post has been published but the selection procedure has not even started.

MEMO/19/1715

 

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