Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission vice-president for the EU budget and human resources, appears to have dropped out of the unofficial race to be the country’s nominee to succeed Ban Ki-moon as the next United Nations Secretary-General.
A brief statement on the website of the Bulgarian government on February 8 2016 said that Georgieva had spoken by phone with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, and had assured him that the political situation in Europe, the migration crisis, the discussion on reforms in the EU and serious issues still to be resolved in her portfolio obliged her “to pay full attention to the topics on which she had received the confidence of the Bulgarian Government, the European Parliament and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker”.
The statement by the Bulgarian government – which made no mention of the context, of the possibility of Georgieva being nominated as a candidate to head the UN – appears to leave the way open for the nomination of Irina Bokova, currently in her second term as head of UNESCO.
In a change to previous practice, the UN is making more transparent the process of choosing a Secretary-General. UN member countries have been asked to submit formal written nominations, with the deadline to do so approaching next month.
Bulgaria’s government has been reticent about openly discussing the issue of who its nominee will be.
Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, in that portfolio both in the autumn 2014 caretaker government and in the centre-right Borissov cabinet that took office in November 2014, said recently that Bulgaria would announce its nominee only when chances of success for the candidate were most propitious.
Bokova, reported to have been put forward as the candidate by the now-departed 2013/24 Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms government as it prepared to leave office amid prolonged protests against it and its electoral failures, has been campaigning for endorsement as the candidate by the current government.
With a political pedigree reaching back to the Bulgarian Communist Party of her youth and having been the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s failed candidate for the country’s vice-president in October 1996 elections, Bokova has allies on the left-wing of the political spectrum.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, currently the second-largest – by some distance – party in the National Assembly, has been calling for her candidacy to be announced. Minority breakaway socialist party ABC, led by former president Georgi Purvanov, has said that it would reconsider its support for the Borissov government unless Bokova was immediately named as the candidate.
Georgieva, found by regular opinion polls to be among the most popular public figures in Bulgaria, is politically closer aligned to the current centre-right government. An economist and a former World Bank vice president, Georgieva is in her second term as a European Commissioner, having won acclaim for her handling of her first portfolio, humanitarian aid.
Bokova and her allies have said that a negative media campaign is being waged against her, sourced within Bulgaria.
Candidates for the UN Secretary-General’s post identified in media reports included Croatian former foreign minister Vesna Pusić, Slovenian former president Danilo Türk, Republic of Macedonia former foreign minister and former UN General Assembly president Srgjan Kerim, Portugues former prime minister and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, Serbian former foreign minister Vuk Jeremić and New Zealand’s former prime minister Helen Clark.
If the UN keeps to custom, the next UN Secretary-General would come from the Eastern European Group of the world body. In a recent interview with The Observer, Ban said that it would be good if the job went to a woman. The UN has not yet had a woman Secretary-General.
(Photo of Georgieva: EC Audiovisual Service)