Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The EPP announced the resignation of Rumyana Zheleva

euinside, January 19, 2010

In a very strange way the Bulgarian society and the European one as well, learned that the Bulgarian Commissioner-designate Rumyana Zheleva had resigned from all positions she held. This happened at a press conference of the European People's Party in Strasbourg. And a little later there was a press release from the Bulgarian government saying that the premier Boyko Borisov has accepted the resignation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spread the letter of Ms. Zheleva to the prime minister.

A little while later, in front of journalists Boyko Borisov announced that he accepted the resignation of Ms Zheleva but only as a Commissioner-designate and he will keep her as a foreign minister.

The outcome came a week after the controversial hearing of the Bulgarian candidate in the Development Committee in the European parliament, which started with harsh questions about the business affairs of Ms. Zheleva and the reliability of her declaration against conflict of interest. More than an hour of the 3-hour hearing was devoted to questions whether Rumyana Zheleva was in the management of companies while she was an MEP which is a violation of the Bulgarian legislation. Ms. Zheleva explained at the hearing that she was not in the management but failed to mention that this was not in violation of the Bulgarian legislation.

Days later the Ministry of Justice published a controversial position claiming that the participation in the management of companies was not in contradiction to the Bulgarian legislation but only with the Book of Rules of the National Assembly which did not have the status of a law. This enraged a number of lawyers and politicians who said that the Book or Rules of the Parliament was a law.

The resignation was accepted by the European political parties with relief. According to the group of the Socialists and Democrats in the EP, the resignation of Ms. Zheleva was inevitable and predictable. "Her decision to go is the best outcome for everyone, including herself" the leader of the group Martin Schulz commented. "After such a poor performance in the parliamentary, which highlighted her incompetence, this outcome was both inevitable and predictable", he added. He also expressed regret for the way the biggest group in Parliament - the EPP tried desperately to save her, in spite of her poor performance. Mr. Schulz also assured that his group would do everything possible to speed p the hearing of the next Bulgarian candidate.

Surprisingly this candidate appeared to be the Bulgarian senior World Bank official Kristalina Georgieva. In 2008 she became Vice President and Corporate Secretary of the World Bank Group. Before that she was an environment economist and then she was a Country Director for the Russian Federation, she was responsible for all World Bank activities in Russia. She also lacks institutional experience as is the unofficial rule of the European Commission. According to unofficial information from the European Parliament, there is a great possibility the new Commission to be voted during the February session of Parliament.

Today the hearings of the last 2 candidates end and it was expected the Commission to be voted on the 26th of January. Given the impasse with the Bulgarian candidate it is possible the deadline to be extended so as to give the new Bulgarian candidate time to prepare for the hearing. This would additionally delay the Commission to take office. Its term ended in the end of October but was extended because of the Lisbon Treaty.

The group of the Greens and the European Free Alliance in the EP also expressed satisfaction of the outcome. The co-president of the group Daniel Cohn-Bendit heavily criticised the president of the Commission: "Commission President Barroso should have been able to see what I could see as a humble MEP, when I first raised concerns about Zheleva's candidacy in December. This debacle shows that Barroso does not have a firm grip on things. The EPP Group is ridiculing itself in trying to claim the moral high ground. Zheleva's withdrawal is the right decision and offers a way out of the current impasse".

The other co-president of the group Rebecca Harms criticised Bulgaria as well: "Barroso and the Bulgarian government must accept their share of the responsibility in the weakness of Zheleva's candidacy. Aside from the lack of clarity in her business interests, Zheleva was clearly not cut out for a top job in humanitarian aid and crisis management. Barroso needs to act swiftly and decisively to avoid a crisis of his own".

In the meantime the president of the Commission Jose Manuel Barroso noted that he fully respected the personal decision for the resignation of Ms. Rumyana Zheleva. A press release said he would do everything possible to meet the new Bulgarian candidate - Ms. Kristalina Georgieva. With his typical diplomatic language, the president of the Commission welcomed the swift reaction of the Bulgarian government in this situation.