Green leader calls for Georgieva to succeed Ashton

Kristalina Georgieva [European Commission]

Kristalina Georgieva [European Commission]

The Green European Parliament Vice President Ulrike Lunacek has called on EU leaders to elect Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian commissioner for humanitarian aid, as the successor of Catherine Ashton as EU foreign Affairs chief.

In an interview with APA, Lunacek, who has led the Austrian Green Party list in the European elections and has previously worked as foreign affairs spokesperson of the Green group, argues that Georgieva is “best suited” to succeed Ashton.

Lunacek says that Georgieva has played “an extraordinary role” in her capacity of commissioner responsible for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.

“On humanitarian aid, which is her current portfolio, she played an extraordinary role and she is also at home in this world,” Lunacek stresses, comparing her to Ashton whose major handicap according to her has been that she has “not really been at home in the world of foreign policy”.

The Austrian Parliament Vice President, who in the previous parliament served as rapporteur on Kosovo recognises, however, Ashton’s contribution for advancing the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  

The main criterion for selecting Catherine Ashton’s successor, said Lunacek, is that the person must bring experience, competence and connections. “The High Representative cannot change disunity among member states. But what he or she can do, is have more confidence to tell the member states what to do,” she said.

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

Georgieva was appointed as Commissioner under the previous centre-right government of Boyko Borissov, and has consequently been seen as EPP-affiliated. However, she has no political record in Bulgarian politics.

EU leaders will discuss the successor of Ashton, as well as of Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the next Eurogroup President at an extraordinary EU summit on 16 July. The name of Georgieva has already be mentioned as a strong hypothesis for the foreign affairs portfolio. Another name mentioned is that of Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

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

Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said yesterday (3 July) that he plans to represent his country at the 16 July summit, despite the fact that he is due to resign a week later. Bulgaria is led by a minority government with a record-low level of support from the population (see background). The pressure for the cabinet to resigned has increased over a recent bank run.

>> Read: Bulgarian bank run paves the way to early election

Oresharski also said that he would not propose a commissioner during the summit, but rather “get orientations” and exchange views with the future Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. He explained that during recent consultations hosted by the President Rossen Plevneliev, it has been decided to decide on “criteria” and on “holding consultations with the various political forces on the candidacies for the future commissioner”.

Diplomats say, however, that those leaders who would not present candidates on 16 July won’t be able to play the game of the top jobs.

The press also speculates that Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the senior coalition partner in the outgoing cabinet, might also be interested in becoming Commissioner. Stanishev, who is also President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), has just been elected as MEP.

Juncker is expected to be confirmed by the Parliament as Commission President on 15 July. After that, 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. 

  • 15 July: Parliament votes to endorse jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President;
  • 16 July: Leaders meet for extraordinary summit to decide on top jobs.

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