The vote for approval of the whole college of commissioners will probably be postponed for 9 February. The new Bulgarian commissioner designate, Kristalina Georgieva, will likely be heard in the European Parliament on 3 February.
Meanwhile the second hearing on Neelie Kroes -commissioner-designate for the Digital Agenda, has gone well. This means that probably the only replacement will be the Bulgarian Georgieva, and the Barroso II team will be approved.
The former commissioner designate, Mrs. Jeleva, will step down from her position as Bulgarian minister of foreign affairs.
Rumiana Jeleva has withdrawn her candidature for commissioner on international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.
Kristalina Georgieva – a vice-president of the World Bank, may be the new commissioner designate.
In any case the approval vote for Barroso II will be postponed.
We now have the statement by Mr. Barroso and by the legal services of the European Parliament on the supposed conflict of interests of the Bulgarian commissioner designate, Rumiana Jeleva. As I have promised, now I should deliver my own opinion on her candidature.
This is a difficult task since Mrs. Jeleva is a colleague – a lecturer at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. But my purpose in this blog has always been to honestly monitor the Bulgarian participation in European affairs, and this case simply cannot be overlooked.
So the question stands – why Jeleva? Why her of all people? I do not have any idea. In fact, I have not heard of any substantial justification of her candidature. Once the scandal broke out there were some quite unclear statements by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Mr. Boyko Borisov, saying that she is intelligent, competent, etc. But nobody actually assessed in public her personal qualities that matter for the job. That is why it was so difficult for me to evaluate her chances to get a serious portfolio – such as energy or the enlargement.
Later there were rumors. Mr. Borisov and other party officials at GERB – the ruling party, say that they knew early on about the staging of a campaign in the European Parliament against Mrs. Jeleva. This is very, very strange. If the Bulgarian officials knew about the pending disaster, why didn’t they prevent it??? So why choose Jeleva after all?
There is more. Let’s not forget where Bulgaria stands in the European Union. We are constantly associated with one word only in Brussels – and that is corruption. We are still aiming at entering Schengen area and the eurozone. We are trying to convince the European Commission that we can manage and control EU funds efficiently and transparently. Even one new speck on the tarnished image of Bulgaria can be overwhelming. What we got instead was some really, really bad coverage (see Economist’s Charlemagne, FT’s Tony Barber and Liberation’s Jean Quatremer among others).
The Jeleva affair may be treated as a sign of the times, given the greater powers of the European Parliament after the Treaty of Lisbon. But shouldn’t we be all the more careful keeping in mind the stronger position of the Parliament? How is Mrs. Jeleva supposed to work with the MEPs when many claim she is unacceptable?
Today may be the decisive moment for Mrs. Jeleva. She may or may not become a commissioner. But I demand a clear answer to one question only – why was Mrs. Rumiana Jeleva proposed as a Bulgarian candidate for commissioner?
Yesterday I observed with great care the hearing of commissioner designate Rumiana Jeleva in the Development Committee of the European Parliament (you can watch the record online here; a summary is available here).
The hearing can be divided in two thematic parts.
The first part concerned allegations of conflict of interest due to ownership of private companies that was not declared before the European Parliament. The issue was raised by the MEPs Thijs Berman, Michael Cashman and Judith Sargentini. In response Mrs. Jeleva repeatedly said that she has nothing to hide, that there are institutions in Bulgaria and that the institutions have not found any evidence of wrongdoing. Surprisingly Mrs. Jeleva went on to say that Mrs. Antonia Parvanova, a MEP from ALDE, has written a letter to the European Commission with unfounded allegations. This prompted a point of order to give the floor to Mrs. Parvanova. Mrs. Parvanova repeated that Mrs. Jeleva did have a conflict of interest. Mrs. Jeleva replied that the company in question did not have any business activity in the recent years. Some documents were distributed by aides of Mrs. Jeleva, but the chair – Mrs. Joly, had them taken from the MEPs later.
The second part was more focused on the so-called “technical questions” that in fact dealt with the portfolio itself. Unfortunately Mrs. Jeleva failed to produce specific answers to many questions. She was fighting with the English language. The answers were characterized as “vague and rambling” by the European Voice.
Later it came out that the coordinators of the Development Committee have requested two sets of advice – one from Jose Manuel Barroso, which is to be delivered within 24 hours, and one from the legal services in the European Parliament, which has no particular deadline.
Meanwhile the Financial Times Deutschland ran an article claiming that Mrs. Jeleva has withheld important information from the European Parliament.
I will provide commentary on the hearing once we have the conclusions of Mr. Barroso and the legal services of the European Parliament.
The hearing of commissioner designate for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response has started. You can follow it online here.
The hearings of commissioner designates start today in the European Parliament. The hearings are expected to end on January, 19th. A vote of approval for the whole college of commissioners is scheduled for January, 26th. However, the voting may be postponed depending on the results from the hearings.
Bulgarian commissioner designate, Rumiana Jeleva, will appear before members of the Committee on Development on January, 12th, at 16:30 Brussels time (17:30 Bulgarian time).
The hearings may be followed online through the EP Live service.
Euractiv reports that according to a source in the group of the Alliance for the Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament has said that if Bulgarian commissioner designate Rumiana Jeleva were to seem problematic following the hearings, a decision would be taken to postpone the vote on the whole Barroso II team, scheduled for 26 January. Instead of risking voting out the entire EU executive over one candidate, changes would be made, the source said.
The spokesman of the European People’s Party, Antoine Ripoll, says that “the policy of the new [Bulgarian] government against corruption is pretty drastic (…) this creates reactions, and one should seek there the explanations for those attacks.”