Ecstatic Bulgarians want Georgieva for president


Kristalina Georgieva, the EU's humanitarian aid commissioner, has won the coveted title of 'European of the Year' and "Commissioner of the Year', awarded by Brussels-based media European Voice, triggering pride and enthusiasm in her home country Bulgaria.

Internet forums were overflowing with calls for Georgieva to run in next year's presidential elections after the Bulgarian commissioner was awarded the two prizes on Tuesday (30 November).

At the time of publication, an article about Georgieva's awards in the daily Dnevnik, EURACTIV's partner in Bulgaria, already had 335 comments from readers.

Georgieva told EURACTIV she was extremely proud that her country, which joined the EU in 2007, had snatched the prize for the second time.

Indeed, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, a Bulgarian, had already been named 'Commissioner of the Year' in 2008. This year, Georgieva did even better by also scooping the title of 'European of the Year'.

Other titles awarded in 2010 included European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, who won in the category 'Official of the Year,' while UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg won in the category 'National Politician of the Year'.

Georgieva played down her achievement, saying she felt the prize had come as a reward for work still outstanding, citing humanitarian crises in earthquake-hit Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has already claimed 1,600 lives.

She said problems in addressing the Haiti disaster stemmed from the country's extremely low level of development. Her goal, she added, will be to build bridges between relief operations and longer-term development issues addressed by Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Asked if she was interested in running in presidential elections in her home country due in autumn 2011, she said she still had "a lot to do" in her current position, "with so many people dying" in disaster areas. She said her current position was a responsibility she had assumed vis-à-vis her own nationals and Europeans in taking on the job of commissioner last February.

Back then, Georgieva scored high marks at a European Parliament confirmation hearing, earning repeated applause from MEPs across party lines and paving the way for the approval of the Barroso II team.

Georgieva, who was a World Bank vice-president until then, became commissioner almost by accident after her compatriot Rumiana Jeleva flopped pitifully at her hearing.

Pre-empting Georgieva's reluctance to enter national politics, some in Bulgaria compare Georgieva to Bulgarian Manchester United star Dimitar Berbatov, who prefers to concentrate on his foreign career and refuses to play for the national football team.

Asked to comment on this comparison, Georgieva said: "My commitment to Bulgaria is to work well and to represent my country well as a commissioner. I think I abide by this commitment. There is nothing wrong if successful Bulgarians abroad are seen as a symbol of their country and improve its image. I think the country needs this."

Although the presidential elections are still relatively distant, the Bulgarian media is already speculating about possible contenders.

At this stage, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is seen as a certain winner if he chooses to run for president. The Socialists, the main opposition party, appear weak at the moment. Current President Georgi Parvanov, a former Socialist leader who is serving a second term and cannot be reelected, initiated in November a political project seen by current Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev as divisive for the centre-left electorate, reports Dnevnik.

In Eastern Europe, experience of serving at the top level in the EU institutions appears to provide enough political clout for a political comeback at the highest political level at home.

Last February, then-EU Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskait? left office and won presidential elections in her country Lithuania.

Similarly, Latvian MEP Valdis Dombrovskis left the European Parliament, as he was nominated prime minister of Latvia by the country's president, Valdis Zatlers.

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