Joseph Daul, chairman of the centre-right EPP group, the largest in the European Parliament, admitted yesterday that Jeleva's husband's dealings could create problems during a parliamentary hearing scheduled for January.
Speaking at a press conference in Strasbourg, Daul admitted that there was a risk that the whole Commission team could be outvoted in Parliament, the Dnevnik correspondent reported.
Referring to the mishaps of the 2004 Parliament hearing for the Barroso I Commission, Daul said the "same thing" could happen again.
Back then, Commission President José Manuel Barroso had to refuse two commissioners-designate, Rocco Buttiglione (Italy) and Ingrida Udre (Latvia), due to controversies in the Parliament surrounding their nomination.
Daul admitted that his group was embarrassed by "rumours about her [Jeleva] and her husband" currently circulating in the EU institutions.
Daul's spokesperson Antoine Ripoll, however, reacted strongly to the Dnevnik reports, stating that the EPP chair had in fact said he had heard rumours about Jeleva, but did not believe they were true. Daul also said he was confident that Jeleva would pass her hearing successfully.
"Chairman Daul knows very well Ms. Jeleva as a former MEP and vice-chair of the EPP group and he knows that she is an honest, hard-working, respected and respectable lady and politican," said Ripoll in a written statement.
Bulgarian media reported that Jeleva, who is currently Bulgaria's foreign minister, is married to Krassimir Jelev, an official at the Central Cooperative Bank (CCB) in the port city of Burgas. The Central Cooperative Bank is widely referred to in the mainstream press as the 'Bank of TIM'. TIM is a secretive business group, believed to be linked to shady Russian funds, according to the Business Week - Bulgaria magazine. According to Business Week-Bulgaria, the name 'TIM' never appears officially, but effectively controls a whole host of firms, mainly on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast.
Acccording to the trade registrar, consulted by Dnevnik on 16 December, Jelev manages the CCB in Burgas. The bank's majority shareholder is the company 'Himimport', while Jelev himself does not own sahres in any company at all, according to the registrar.
Recently Juergen Roth, a German investigative journalist and author of a book about the Bulgarian mafia, described TIM as "the most modern form of organised crime: an example of the 'Mafia Borghese'".
Daul, meanwhile, said "some people are jealous that Jeleva got the nomination," referring to the fact that current Bulgarian Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, who is popular both in her country and in Brussels, was not the choice of new Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (EurActiv 07/07/09).
Speaking to Bulgarian national radio, Jeleva said she is aware of the circulation of "anonymous kompromats" about her in the European Parliament. 'Kompromat' is a common term in the new Bulgarian political vocabulary, meaning slanderous allegations about the past of politicians.
At a separate press event, Daniel Cohn Bendit, co-chair of the Parliament's Green/EFA group, said he would insist on full transparency of information related to Jeleva.
"There have been statements that the Bulgarian candidate has submitted a bogus declaration of interests – I don't know if this is true, but this could make her election difficult if we receive no clarification," Cohn-Bendit is quoted as saying.
Jeleva will be auditioned by three Parliament committees – on development, foreign affairs, and environment, public health and food safety. The development committee, which will lead the hearings, is presided over by Green MEP Eva Joly.