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European Commission - Press release

President Juncker reorganises his close team; European Commission appoints new Secretary-General

Brussels, 21 February 2018

Following the wish of Secretary-General Alexander Italianer to retire, the European Commission appointed Martin Selmayr as its new Secretary-General, while President Juncker appointed Clara Martinez Alberola as his new Head of Cabinet and Richard Szostak as his new Deputy Head of Cabinet.

After over 32 years at the service of the European Commission, the current Secretary-General Alexander Italianer, has decided to retire from the European Commission. As a result, and on the proposal of President Jean-Claude Juncker, the College has decided to appoint Martin Selmayr, the current Head of Cabinet of the President, as the new Secretary-General of the Commission. This decision will take effect on 1 March. At the same time, President Juncker has decided that his current Deputy Head of Cabinet, Clara Martinez Alberola, will become his new Head of Cabinet ­­­– the first-ever female Head of Cabinet of a Commission President. President Juncker's current Diplomatic Adviser, Richard Szostak, will become his new Deputy Head of Cabinet.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "This morning, Alexander Italianer confirmed to me his wish to retire as Secretary-General of the Commission as of 1 March. I want to express my deep gratitude to him for decades of loyal service to the European Commission and over the past three years to me as its President. I truly appreciated working with such an experienced and knowledgeable Secretary-General and I want to thank him for his skillful steer of our administration, as well as for having agreed to stay on for another month to ensure a smooth transition. I am also glad that he agreed to continue to advise me, after 1 April, as Special Adviser on strategic issues on the EU's agenda, in particular the Multiannual Financial Framework and Brexit Preparedness."

Alexander Italianer, a Dutch national, joined the European Commission in 1985 starting in its Economic and Financial Affairs department. He has served five Commission Presidents, including in the Cabinets of Presidents Jacques Santer and José Manuel Barroso, where he was Deputy Head of Cabinet. He contributed to influential economic studies that were used by former Commission President Jacques Delors to advocate his plans for the European Single Market and Economic and Monetary Union. After having participated in the Commission's team negotiating the Maastricht Treaty, Alexander Italianer became responsible for the introduction of the euro in the Cabinet of President Santer and contributed to the Agenda 2000 which paved the way for the accession of ten new Member States in 2004. In 2010, he became Director-General for Competition, where he initiated cases against internet giants such as Google and Apple, went after cartels among major banks in the LIBOR case and introduced important simplifications to EU state aid rules. As Deputy Secretary-General and the first chairman of the Commission's Impact Assessment Board on Better Regulation (2006-2010) and in his current role as Secretary-General (as of September 2015), Alexander Italianer was crucial in delivering on the Commission's promise of being "big on big and small on small things". He was also driving the Commission's efforts in managing migration, responding to terrorist threats in Europe, streamlining the European Semester process of economic policy coordination among Member States and preparing for the consequences of Brexit as well as Europe's future at 27, notably when it comes to the next Multiannual Financial Framework. To ensure a smooth transition to his successor in the Secretariat-General, Alexander Italianer will continue serving President Juncker for another month as Hors Classe Adviser until 31 March. With his rich and valuable experience, he will then become Special Adviser to President Juncker on strategic issues on the EU's agenda, in particular the Multiannual Financial Framework and Brexit Preparedness.

On the proposal of President Juncker, Martin Selmayr, who is the President's current Head of Cabinet, has been appointed today as the European Commission's new Secretary-General with effect of 1 March. Clara Martinez Alberola, who is the current Deputy Head of Cabinet, will assume the role of President Juncker's new Head of Cabinet as of 1 March.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said:"The next 20 months will be decisive in fully delivering on a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. I need the best team in place. This is why I want Martin Selmayr as the new Secretary-General to steer the talented and hard-working administration of our institution, and Clara Martinez Alberola to lead my personal team. Over the past years, Clara and Martin have earned my full trust and confidence. They have proven that together, they make a very strong team that can find swift and sound solutions to the most pressing challenges that Europe faces. With their professionalism, expertise and strong team spirit, the Commission will be able to deliver its legislative agenda and prepare for the future."

Martin Selmayr will be the seventh Secretary-General of the European Commission and the first-ever German national to assume this post[1]. After having worked in academia, the private sector and at the European Central Bank, Martin Selmayr joined the European Commission in 2004 where he served first as Spokesperson for Information Society and Media (2004-2010). In 2010, he became Head of Cabinet of Viviane Reding, Vice-President for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (2010-2014). In these positions, he led the Commission's successful efforts to bring down roaming charges across the EU and to introduce new European data protection rules. In 2014, Martin Selmayr became the campaign director of Jean-Claude Juncker as the European People's Party's (EPP) lead candidate for the European Parliament elections. Subsequently, he was appointed Principal Adviser in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs and EU Director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development before becoming the Head of Mr Juncker's transition team and then his Head of Cabinet when Jean-Claude Juncker took office as Commission President on 1 November 2014. In this function, Mr Selmayr has helped steering and delivering on all strategic priorities of the Juncker Commission.

The President appointed today Clara Martinez Alberola as his new Head of Cabinet with effect of 1 March. Ms Martinez Alberola is the first woman and the first Spanish national in the history of the European Commission to head the Commission President's office [2]. Having joined the European Commission 27 years ago (in 1991), she first worked predominantly on legal questions related to the Single Market and on preparing the 2004 enlargement. She then served in the Cabinet of President Barroso for two consecutive mandates (2005-2014) where she notably helped shaping the Commission's 2014 proposal for a Framework to safeguard the Rule of Law in the EU. In July 2014 she was appointed Principal Adviser to DG Justice before joining Martin Selmayr as the Deputy Head of the Transition Team of Jean-Claude Juncker and subsequently becoming his Deputy Head of Cabinet when he took office as President of the European Commission on 1 November 2014. In her current role, Ms Martinez Alberola has notably been responsible for the interinstitutional relations, has helped coordinate the Commission's efforts to manage migration, deliver on President Juncker's Better Regulation Agenda and steered the preparation of the annual Commission Work Programmes.

President Juncker has further decided to appoint Richard Szostak, his current trusted Diplomatic Adviser, as his new Deputy Head of Cabinet. Richard Szostak is a Polish-British national who has worked in the Cabinet of former Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (2012-2014), as well as in the Council's Legal Service (2005-2011) and in the Polish Permanent Representation to the EU during the Polish EU Presidency. In his current role, Richard Szostak advises President Juncker on all foreign policy related issues, on the preparation of G7 Summits and notably on the Brexit negotiations, as well as on EU-Swiss relations – areas for which he will continue to be responsible in his new function as Deputy Head of Cabinet of President Juncker. Richard Szostak was instrumental in coordinating EU and Member States' actions at the height of the migration crisis; in the negotiation of the EU-Turkey Statement and the preparation of the Western Balkans Strategy.

In order to further reinforce the Secretariat-General, the College has further decided on the proposal from President Juncker that Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen will join the Secretariat-General as Principal Adviser as of 1 March where she will be acting Deputy Secretary-General. Ms Ahrenkilde-Hansen is a Danish national who is currently Director in the Presidential Service DG Communication, in charge of the Commission's Representations in the Member States. With 22 years of experience in the European Commission, Ms Ahrenkilde-Hansen has served as European Commission Spokeswoman under Presidents Prodi and Barroso (from 1999-2009). She was the Chief Spokeswoman of the Commission from 2009 to 2014. In her current role in charge of the Representations, she coordinates the Commission's communication efforts in the Member States, helping to reach out to citizens and local and regional media at a time that is crucial for the future of Europe. These skills and competences make her ideally-suited for her new job in the Secretariat-General.

For more information on other senior management appointmentments of today, see press release here.

Background: The Commission's Secretaries-General since 1958

  1. Émile Noël: French, 1922. Appointed Executive-Secretary of the European Economic Community in 1958 at the age of 36. Served in this function until 1987.
  2. David Williamson: British, 1934. Appointed Secretary-General in 1987 at the age of 53. Served in this function until 1997.
  3. Carlo Trojan: Dutch, 1942. Appointed Secretary-General in 1997 at the age of 55. Served in this function until 2000.
  4. David O'Sullivan: Irish, 1953. Appointed Secretary-General in June 2000 at the age of 47. Served in this function until November 2005. Before having been appointed Secretary-General, he was the Head of Cabinet of former Commission President Romano Prodi.
  5. Catherine Day: Irish, 1954. Appointed Secretary-General in November 2005 at the age of 51. Served in this function until 1 September 2015.
  6. Alexander Italianer: Dutch, 1956. Appointed Secretary-General on 1 September 2015 at the age of 59. Served in this function until 1 March 2018.


[1] There have been six Secretaries-General of the European Commission: five male and one female. Two were Dutch, two Irish, one British and one French.

[2] There have been 19 male Heads of Cabinet of the President so far out of which five were French, four German, three Belgian, two Luxembourgish, two Italian, one Portuguese, one Irish and one British.


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