European Western Balkans

Ongoing recruitment of Director-General for Enlargement raises concerns

European Commission; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – The selection procedure for the new Director-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission is ongoing, and, earlier this week, Brussels-based Politico raised concern over a potential candidate, Permanent Representative of Poland to the European Union, Andrzej Sadoś, calling into question his readiness to insist on the rule of law and democracy standards in the EU candidate countries.

The Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) is tasked with assisting those countries with a perspective to join the EU in meeting the necessary criteria, monitoring their progress and supporting accession negotiations as required by the Council. The DG manages the bilateral relations of the Union with the candidate and potential candidate countries on their path to the EU.

The Director-General manages the work of DG NEAR. This position has been vacant since Christian Danielsson left it in July 2020 after almost seven years in office. Former Deputy Director-General Maciej Popowski has been the Acting Director-General until the appointment of the new one.

European Commission’s College, made up of all members, decided to fill a vacancy in June 2021, with the decision being published in the Official Journal in July.

The selection procedure is currently ongoing. In accordance with the rules and guidelines in force and to protect the Commission’s decision-making procedures as well as personal data, no details can be provided concerning the status of the procedure or any candidates, European Commission Spokesmen told European Western Balkans.

Our portal was also informed that, when the selection procedure is complete, the appointment decision will be taken by the College on a proposal from the Commissioner in charge of Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, in agreement with President Ursula von der Leyen after consultation of the portfolio Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi.

However, Politico reported this week that, according to two officials, Sadoś has applied to become director-general of DG NEAR.

According to Politico, opponents of giving Sadoś the job say having him and (Olivér) Várhelyi at the top of DG NEAR would seriously undermine efforts to foster democracy and the rule of law in the EU’s neighborhood, particularly in countries that want to be part of an enlarged Union.

“Várhelyi and Sadoś — who are close friends — both have strong ties to their home governments, which stand accused by EU institutions of backsliding on democratic norms”, the magazine reported.

Answering the question by Politico, Sadoś stressed that Poland remains committed to high standards of the accession criteria.

“Decisions in the enlargement process and accession negotiations are taken unanimously, and Poland, together with other Member States, defines the high standards … related to the rule of law, democratization, good governance, combating corruption, etc,” he said.

This is not the first time that Politico is tackling the functioning of the European Commission’s enlargement departments. In October 2021, the outlet reported that, according to more than a dozen officials from multiple institutions and an analysis of internal documents, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has overseen a push to play down concerns about the rule of law and human rights in candidates for EU membership

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