An Authoritarian Rule

BRUSSELS/BERLIN/LONDON (Own report) - A defamatory German newspaper article and its alleged source - an insider of the EU's bureaucracy - are increasingly impeding the Brexit negotiations. Martin Selmayr, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's Chief of Staff is being blamed for leaking alleged details of a private conversation between Juncker and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May to a German daily. The content - untrue, according to Juncker - could be very damaging for Great Britain in the Brexit negotiations. Selmayr, who, already months ago, declared that the Brexit would "never be a success," is considered the most powerful bureaucrat in Brussels. He is not only known as Juncker's gatekeeper, but also known for his "very authoritarian rule." Other Germans in key EU positions are also involved in the Brexit negotiations.

"Begged for Help"

An article in last Sunday's edition of the German Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper has stirred up new controversy around Martin Selmayr, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's Chief of Staff.[1] Writing on the Brexit dispute, the journal's political editor also described a private dinner between Juncker and the British Prime Minister Theresa May early last week in Brussels. May was portrayed as weak, distressed and incapable of controlling her party. To Juncker she appeared "anxious, despondent and disheartened," with "deep rings" under her eyes, "like someone who does not sleep for nights on end." May's "face and appearance spoke volumes," and she seemed to use her "utmost strength to avoid losing her composure." "She begged for help," claimed the political editor in Frankfurt. He highlighted his demeaning description of the British Prime Minister by contrasting her to the image of a politically stringent, however honorable and generous EU leadership: One "cannot solve the problems for the British," the Germany Chancellery allegedly noted. However, Brussels did not want "to appear" as if "the Prime Minster was being rebuffed." Therefore, Brussels sought, at least, to "nicely wrap up her defeat."

"Naive, Deluded"

The article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung has not only caused a stir, because it could damage London in the negotiations, but also because it is already the second such article within a few months. In the April 30 edition of that newspaper, the same political editor had already given a detailed account of a private meeting between May and Juncker. Referring to details of their conversation, he condescendingly portrayed May as naïve, deluded, and painting a "rosy picture of the Brexit," and contrasted her to Juncker as an honorable expert, merely seeking an "orderly exit with no chaos."[2] The article, which was published a few weeks before Britain's parliamentary elections was appropriately described as an attempt to interfere in the election campaign to benefit the opponents of Brexit. ( reported.[3]) It provoked an angry reaction in the UK and significantly contributed to poisoning the political climate between Great Britain and the continent.

Wide-Ranging Consequences

Martin Selmayr was soon pointed out as the source of information for the political editor in Frankfurt, because the author had exposed internal details about aspects of the meeting, where, besides Juncker, May and one of her advisors, only Selmayr had been present. Already in the spring, insiders had reported that Selmayr was well known for occasionally leaking internal details to this journalist in Frankfurt. Once again, suspicion fell on Junckers Chief of Staff, above all because, no other source was possible. Aside from Selmayr, only Juncker and Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, were present on behalf of the EU. Insiders do not consider Selmayr's twittered denials very convincing. At the same time, the article - whose content, London says, is not only biased but also factually erroneous and was even disputed by Juncker - potentially will have wide-ranging consequences. It destroys the foundations of mutual trust between London and Brussels for talks in the future. At any time, a new leak - of accurate or inaccurate - details can be expected, resulting in another defamatory article against the British government in the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This may be why Chancellor Angela Merkel had spread the word that she was "angry" about the article,[4] that accomplished the wonder of reuniting the Britain's Brexit proponents and its opponents in indignation.

Firm Grip

This scandal once again highlights the increasingly predominant role being assumed by German staff members in the top echelons of the EU's bureaucracy. Currently, Selmayr holds a key position. Ever since the CDU European Parliamentarian, Elmar Brok - an ex-Bertelsmann lobbyist and long-standing Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs - opened key doors for Selmayr in Brussels' bureaucracy, Selmayr was launched on a meteoric career. Beginning as head of the Bertelsmann Corporation's EU mission (2001), he rose from spokesperson (2004) of EU Commissioner Vivane Reding (from Luxemburg), to become her Chief of Staff (2010), to finally become Chief of Staff of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (since 2014).[5] Articles on his influence regularly describe how he controls Juncker's office, even isolating the President of the Commission from EU Commissioners and otherwise influencing his employer's work. He’s "the most powerful EU chief of staff ever,"[6] according to an article, he runs the European Commission with "the merciless hand" of a king. Last year, a German European Parliamentarian remarked that Selmayr "rules very authoritarian."[7] In fact, the Chief of Staff has made many enemies. A Commission vice president and several high-level aides have quit, decrying his authoritarian control of the Commission. One high-ranking EU functionary was quoted saying, it is only natural that once you are in power, you have enemies. "The problem with Martin is he has no friends. That means maybe he took it too far."[8] Once, Commission President Juncker, perhaps jokingly, referred to Selmayr as "the monster" at the Berlaymont. The Berlaymont Building in Brussels houses the European Commission.

Decisive Influence

Since Juncker appointed him in October 2016 to hold preliminary talks with London, Selmayr has been at the forefront of Britain's exit from the EU. Since then, he has also been on hand - at times, as the only other person, besides Juncker - in summit negotiations on the Brexit. "Brexit will never become a success," is his motto."[9] Selmayr is not the EU's only German top level Brexit negotiator. The deputy of Michel Barnier, the EU's official chief Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, is also German. Weyand, who is also involved at the highest levels in the talks, is said to be close to Selmayr.[10] The Brexit-Coordinator of the European Peoples Party (EPP) and the European Parliament's Brexit-Sherpa in the person of Elmar Brok - Selmayr's long-time promoter - is also German. Associated with the German Chancellor's predominating position in the EU, German politicians and officials have obtained decisive influence at all levels of the Brexit negotiations.

Top Positions

However, the Brexit, is not the only area of EU policy-making controlled by Germans. Helga Schmid - former Head of the Political Staff of German Foreign Minister Joseph Fischer, since 2010 Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and, since September 2016, its Secretary General - is today in charge of Iran, including the Nuclear Agreement. Elmar Brok is to become Commission President Juncker'sspecial representative for relations between the EU and the United States. David McAllister (CDU), the Chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, is also from Germany. Germans hold other top positions: Three presidents of EU parliamentary groups are German, as well as the EU Parliament's General Secretary, leading officials in several important directorate-generals, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the secretary general of the European Investment Bank all come from Germany. ( reported.[11]) Berlin's clear stamp on EU policy - not only with Brexit - is therefore assured.


[1] Thomas Gutschker: Ohne Qualen geht es nicht. 22.10.2017.

[2] Thomas Gutschker: Das desaströse Brexit-Dinner. 01.05.2017.

[3] See also Brussels' Provocations.

[4] Merkel "wütend" über Bericht zu May und Juncker. 24.10.2017.

[5] See also Particularly Close to Germany und Eine nie dagewesene Machtkonzentration.

[6] David M. Herszenhorn: "Monster" at the Berlaymont. 17.11.2016.

[7] See also Eine nie dagewesene Machtkonzentration.

[8] David M. Herszenhorn: "Monster" at the Berlaymont. 17.11.2016.

[9] Florian Eder, David M. Herszenhorn: Brexit will never be a success: Juncker's top aide. 05.05.2017.

[10] Tom McTague, David M. Herszenhorn: Juncker's "monster" haunts Britain. 26.10.2017.

[11] See also Eine nie dagewesene Machtkonzentration.