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Top EU civil servant Selmayr to quit post

FILE PHOTO: European Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr attends a weekly college meeting of the EU executive in Brussels, Belgium, January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Commission’s top civil servant Martin Selmayr, whose sudden promotion to that post last year angered EU lawmakers and earned a rebuke from the European Ombudsman, will step down next week, a Commission spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Secretary-General Selmayr, a frank-speaking German lawyer, was Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief aide before he was promoted in an abrupt two-step process.

Selmayr’s compatriot Ursula von der Leyen is bidding on Tuesday to secure backing from EU lawmakers to succeed Juncker.

According to an unwritten EU convention, the bloc’s top civil servant, who runs a 30,000-strong administration in Brussels, should mot be of the same nationality as the Commission head.

Asked if Selmayr, 48, was quitting his post, Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said ‘yes’ in a text message. She did not elaborate.

Last year’s Commission decision to first appoint him as deputy secretary-general and then promote him minutes later when the serving secretary-general suddenly retired was criticised as “coup-like” by European Parliament deputies.

Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly concluded that the action risked undermining public trust in the Commission.

Selmayr, whose combative style as Juncker’s chief of staff divided opinion, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Writing by Foo Yun Chee; editing by John Stonestreet