EU heavyweights advise Bulgaria to nominate Georgieva for Ashton’s job


The ambassadors of several Western EU countries have indicated their countries’ support for Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian Commissioner responsible for Humanitarian Aid, to be nominated for the new EU executive, indicating that she might get the post of foreign affairs chief currently held by Catherine Ashton, EURACTIV has learned.

Permanent representatives to the EU have engaged in an unprecedented lobbying initiative for Georgieva to be nominated as Commissioner, according to diplomatic sources. In addition a “small but very important country” has also put its weight – Luxembourg, the home country of Jean-Claude Juncker, who is widely expected to become the next Commission President, replacing José Manuel Barroso.

“Juncker would be very happy to receive a phone call by the Bulgarian Prime Minister”, a diplomat said.

The issue appears to be that the Bulgarian government is undecided about the nomination of the next commissioner. The minority cabinet of Plamen Oresharski is close to collapse, due to the poor showing of the two political forces of which he is constituted in the European elections, and the mishandling of the involvement of the country in the South Stream pipeline project.

>> Read: South Stream project threatens to bring down Bulgarian government

According to the Bulgarian media, the President Rossen Plevneliev supports the nomination of Georgieva for a new term, and so does the main opposition force, the centre-right Citizens for a European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. According to polls, if elections are held now, GERB would be reconfirmed as the largest political force. Borissov nominated Georgieva five years ago after his first choice, Rumiana Jeleva, flopped at a hearing in the European Parliament.

But reportedly Oresharski has other plans and would like to nominate Deputy Prime Minister Zinaida Zlatanova for the job. The press also speculates that Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the senior coalition partner in the present cabinet, might also be interested to become Commissioner. Stanishev, who is also President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), has just been elected as MEP.

Georgieva, a former World Bank Vice President, has gained an excellent reputation as commissioner. Asked recently by EURACTIV to reveal her plans for the future, she kept the cards close to her chest by saying that she would know when her present term expires.

>> Read: Georgieva: ‘Travelling trouble’ could reach us

However, the promises that Georgieva could be given such a top job as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy may be a long shot. It is certainly true that Georgieva qualifies for the role and that one of the highest posts in the EU should be given to a woman. However, the puzzle is not yet ready and the names of other female candidates are circulating as well, as that of Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini. It is also unclear who will inherit from Herman van Rompuy as Council President.

It is also unclear how the authorities in Sofia would react to the foreign pressure, that may put it in an embarrassing situation of having others deciding for the Bulgarian commissioner.

According to sources if the EU leaders nominate Juncker tomorrow (27 June) and if the European Parliament would confirm him on 16 July, an extraordinary EU summit could be called before the end of the month to decide the rest of the top appointments. After Juncker is confirmed, he is expected to send letters to EU governments and invite them to propose candidates for commissioners. 

Bulgaria's Socialist-led government took office on 29 May 2013, ending months of political impasse but lacking broad backing. Plamen Oresharski, a nonpartisan former finance minister, is prime minister.

At the parliamentary election, held on 12 May, the party GERB (Citizens for a European development of Bulgaria) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, EPP-affiliated, emerged as the largest party with 97 of the 240 seats.

But as GERB proved incapable of finding a coalition partner, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which obtained 84 seats, formed a cabinet with the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a mainly ethnic Turkish force, which obtained 36 seats. DPS is ALDE-affiliated.

At the European elections GERB emerged as the leader with 30.4% of the vote, followed by BSP with 18.9%, DPS with 17.3% and two new forces. The party Bulgaria Without Censorship of former journalist Nikolai Barekov obtained 10.6% and the Reformist Block got 6.4%. Meanwhile Barekov joined the conservative ECR group. The Reformist Bolck is EPP-affiliated. 

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