By Francesco Canepa
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank has won a court case over the handpicking of President Mario Draghi's closest adviser, surviving the most high-profile challenge so far to hiring practices at the euro zone's mightiest institution.
The European Union's top court has thrown out an appeal against the appointment of German economist Roland Straub as "manifestly inadmissible" and upheld the ECB's right to fill certain positions without an open recruitment process, the ruling showed.
Straub, who was appointed in February 2017, plays a key role in formulating policy proposals and coordinates the advisers to the ECB's five other directors, making the case against him highly sensitive for the central bank's reputation.
"The ECB did not have to, and did not, open a formal selection process to fill the job," the General Court of the European Union said in a ruling published on its website.
The complaint had been lodged in a personal capacity by ECB staff representative Carlos Bowles, who argued the central bank had acted unlawfully by not advertising the job, denying others a chance to apply.
But the EU court said Bowles did not suffer a loss as a result of Straub's appointment and had failed to show he had a personal interest in bringing the case - two preconditions for lodging a complaint.
The ruling could set a precedent for hundreds of direct appointments at the ECB, including staffers on short-term contracts and picked from internal reserve lists.
"The court is merely offering a questionable juridical immunity to the ECB for appointing many officials to well remunerated positions outside of any independent public scrutiny," Bowles said after the verdict.
A spokesman for the ECB declined to comment.
Straub, who will leave the role when Draghi's term ends on Oct 31, 2019, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The central bank had to cancel five appointments, including that of head of its Brussels office, in the last two years as a result of appeals by Bowles.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)