Kristian Vigenin, the former MEP who holds the foreign policy portfolio in the soon-to-resign Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet, has confirmed in a television interview that his name has been discussed as Bulgaria’s possible candidate European Commissioner.
This is the latest twist in the saga of who will be put forward formally by Bulgaria, and comes after a meeting of European Union leaders postponed the question of the bloc’s new foreign policy chief to August 30.
At the July 17 meeting of the European Council, called specially to discuss the posts of EU foreign policy chief and the future European Council President, no decision was reached. Reports named the frontrunners for the foreign policy post as Italy’s Federica Mogherini and Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva.
After a long period of domestic political tussling behind closed doors in Bulgaria, Plamen Oresharski – occupant of the prime minister’s chair in the BSP cabinet – told reporters at the European Council meeting that he backed Georgieva to be foreign policy chief, but added that he had no mandate from the government to do so.
The same day, Sergei Stanishev, the MEP who leads the Party of European Socialists and who is stepping down as leader of the BSP after that party’s succession of electoral failures, declined to endorse Georgieva, instead indicating that the foreign policy chief would come from socialist ranks in Europe. Stanishev told reporters that Bulgaria’s nomination for European Commissioner would not be made that day.
On July 18, local television station bTV reported after interviewing Vigenin that he had confirmed that his name was among those discussed as Bulgaria’s possible candidate European Commissioner.
Some days earlier, centre-right opposition GERB leader Boiko Borissov said that he had heard that Vigenin was to be the nominee – although some days before that, Borissov said that he had heard that it was to be Stanishev.
Vigenin told bTV that after the July 17 European Council meeting, it was “quite clear” that Georgieva would “never” get the EU foreign policy post, which would be for the European socialists.
“So, instead of misleading Bulgarian citizens, the political forces should sit with the prime minister and discuss what the solution is because the expectation is that the Bulgarian candidate should be presented by July 30,” Vigenin said.
He said that it was appropriate for this government to propose the Commissioner. The arguments that applied to this government also applied equally to a caretaker cabinet, which would be in place for two months and would have a limited horizon, he said.
This was a reference to the argument, put forward especially strongly by Borissov, that a government put in place with a BSP mandate lacked the legimitacy to make the appointment given that the BSP was thoroughly thrashed in Bulgaria’s May 2014 European Parliament elections.
Bulgaria’s National Assembly is to be dissolved on August 6 to make way for early elections on October 5. The current cabinet is expected to resign before the end of July.
There have been critical comments in the Bulgarian media about the country’s handling of the European Commissioner issue. Mass-circulation daily Trud said that Bulgaria had “slept through” the business while Sega suggested that Oresharski’s endorsement of Georgieva had been intended as a kiss of death so that he could propose another candidate from his small circle.
“Is Bulgaria really so thoughtless as to miss the chance for an influential presence in the European Commission only because of banal calculations about connections?” Sega asked.
On July 17, in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, Georgieva – who had been named in several reports as a candidate with wide backing and strong credibility among a number of influential EU states – said that she would gladly accept a nomination for Commissioner, should the government make the nomination.
Georgieva said that she was ready to take up the responsibility if asked.
“I treat very seriously the reputation of our country and hold high the Bulgarian flag.” She said that she would have expected a very strong portfolio and a very serious position as the advantage she had was five years and recognition of having done a very good job.
Georgieva, holder of the EC’s humanitarian aid and crisis response portfolio since 2009, said that it was very good for Bulgaria that a Bulgarian name was in the “very short list” for the second most important position in the European Commission.
She added, “you know very well that the final result depends not only on the competence of the candidates, but how (posts) will be divided among the political families”.
Georgieva said that she was sure that by August 30, there would be an understanding and a solution. “What it will be, we will find out then.”