Commission ups the pressure on Bulgaria to nominate new Commissioner

Andrus Ansip and Mina Andreeva [European Commission]

Brussels today (19 December) increased the pressure on Bulgaria to nominate a Commissioner to replace Kristalina Georgieva, by saying that the digital economy portfolio will only be available until the end of this week.

Bulgaria needs to appoint a Commissioner to replace outgoing vice-president Georgieva who holds the budget and human resources portfolio and who resigned last October to take a job with the World Bank.

German Commissioner Günther Oettinger will take over Georgieva’s responsiblities, leaving his digital economy and society portfolio available. Despite a series of blunders, he is expected to start his new job in January.

European Parliament renounces control over Oettinger's nomination

EXCLUSIVE /  The European Parliament’s Conference of the Presidents decided on Wednesday (23 November) that Günther Oettinger will not face a plenary vote before taking on his new portfolio. EURACTIV France reports.

Bulgaria hasn’t nominated a Commissioner yet as the country struggles to form a government after centre-right Prime Minister Boyko Borissov resigned on 28 October, following the election of the Socialist backed candidate in the presidential election.

Bulgaria in political crisis after Socialist candidate wins presidential election

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said he will resign after Socialist-backed candidate, Rumen Radev,  a newcomer to politics, won the run-off of presidential election yesterday (13 November), by a landslide.

In the meantime, Borissov is still in charge. At first, he said that his country wanted the “ecology or regional development” portfolio, despite the fact that those are currently taken.

Regional policy currently falls under Romanian Commissioner Corina Crețu, while environment falls under Maltese Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who also covers maritime affairs and fisheries.

Bulgaria's Borissov wants the ecology or regional development Commissioner portfolio

Following the resignation of Bulgarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, the country’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, said that he would discuss her replacement with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today (31 October).

Later Borissov changed his mind. Asked to comment on the replacement of Georgieva during the 15 December EU summit, he said that he didn’t want to do that, as it was better for the next government to take such a decision, or for the parliament to propose a candidate with wide consensus.

So far the Commission has said that it was not in a hurry regarding the new Bulgarian Commissioner’s nomination.

In the meantime, Politico.eu reported that Vice President Andrus Ansip, who is responsible for the Digital Single Market and was overseeing Oettinger’s work, is expected to take up his portfolio.

EURACTIV asked Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva what would be available for Bulgaria if this information was correct.

Andreeva said that in the first place, there was no Bulgarian candidate, and therefore it was impossible to discuss portfolio allocations. She also said that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will make his decision regarding the allocation of the Oettinger’s portfolio at the end of the week.

Digital portfolio – or whatever?

This basically gives Bulgaria a couple of days to nominate a person qualified for the digital economy job. If the Eastern European country misses the deadline, Sofia is likely to get an insignificant portfolio, as every field in terms of EU policy is already spoken for.

Bulgarian daily Sega reported that there is a serious risk that the country, which will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2018, will get a nothing portfolio.

The paper highlighted that in 2007, when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, the Romanian Commissioner was given the “multilingualism” portfolio, a field in which the EU doesn’t even legislate.

Language discrimination rife across EU

Calls for legislation to be drawn up or even for a Language Commissioner to be appointed have been made, in order to combat a rising number of discrimination cases across the European Union.

This portfolio has never been attributed since. Bulgaria’s Meglena Kuneva was given “consumer protection”, carved out from the health and food safety portfolio held at that time by Cypriot Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Bulgaria is currently trying to form a government under the mandate of the Reformist Bloc, a small centre-right force in which Kuneva is one of the leaders. In case the cabinet is agreed before the end of the week, it could well propose a candidate for Commissioner.

Several female names for potential Commissioners have been mentioned in the recent weeks. Bulgaria is the only country in the EU that has always nominated women for Commissioners – three so far, including the unsuccessful Rumiana Jeleva.

Bulgarian EU hopeful bites the dust in Parliament

Bulgarian commissioner-designate Rumiana Jeleva flopped at a hearing in the European Parliament yesterday (12 January), failing to counter accusations of conflict of interest and giving disappointing answers on policy issues. Her eviction from the Barroso II team could be announced later today.