Controversial former Bulgarian foreign minister nominated for second EPP term – report

Bulgaria’s ruling party GERB has nominated Roumyana Zheleva, a former foreign minister and failed European Commissioner-designate, for a second term as vice president of the European People’s Party (EPP), public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio reported on October 16.

Zheleva is among the nominees for 10 vice president seats that will be considered by party delegates at the EPP congress in Bucharest on October 17-18, BNR said. The vote is scheduled for the morning of October 18.

While it is not impossible for politicians to make a heady comeback after spending years in the wilderness, Zheleva has spent more than two and a half years out of the headlines since her disastrous confirmation hearings in the European Parliament in January 2010.

Grilled by MEPs for an alleged failure to follow the rules on disclosure of business interests, bumbling her way through the hearing under the concerted onslaught of her critics, Zheleva withdrew as European Commissioner-designate and Foreign Minister a week after the ordeal, on January 19 2010, though not before gaining unfortunate (for her) YouTube notoriety.

It was the first major misstep by the Government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov after taking office in July 2009 and one it adroitly and rapidly swept up, with Zheleva banished off the country’s political scene – but she kept her vice president seat in the EPP, to which she was elected in preparation of her European Commission bid just a month earlier, in December 2009.

Now, Zheleva is set to return from the political equivalent of the Phantom Zone, at a time when Borissov’s Cabinet – dogged by rising public disapproval of its policies and slipping in the polls – can least afford to be reminded of its failures. (Zheleva appears to have been a political zombie for some time now, judging by her website linked to from her EPP page, which she failed to re-register and has been bought by someone else last week.)

But Zheleva’s odds for re-election were high, as she has the support of EPP president Wilfried Martens, the 76-year-old Belgian who has been at the helm of the party for the past 20 years and is set to win another term, BNR said. Martens has repeatedly spoken favourably about Zheleva and was the one who lobbied for her nomination from GERB, BNR reported.

(File photo of Roumyana Zheleva during her confirmation hearing as European Commissioner-designate in European Parliament on January 12 2010. Photo: European Parliament.)



Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.