Budget commissioner Georgieva leaves for UN campaign
By Eric Maurice
EU budget commissioner Kristalina Georgieva is taking unpaid leave to campaign for the post of UN secretary general after being chosen as Bulgaria's candidate.
Her duties will be taken over by Guenther Oettinger, the German EU commissioner in charge of digital economy, just as negotiations on the EU 2017 budget and the revision of the EU budget for 2014-2020 are reaching a final stage.
Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov picked Georgieva, who was in charge of humanitarian aid in the previous commission, to replace Irina Bokova as the country's candidate.
Bokova, the current head of UN cultural body UNESCO, came sixth in a straw poll among the 15 members of the UN security council on Monday, making her an outsider for the job.
Antonio Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister and current UN high commissioner for refugees, came first in the poll. Slovakia's foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak came in second.
Georgieva said in statement that she was "deeply honoured" and "mindful" of the great responsibility, opportunities and challenges of the UN position.
Speculation about Georgieva's UN bid had been around for several months, and were heightened in early September when Martin Selmayr, the head of cabinet of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, endorsed a possible candidacy.
"Kristalina would make strong UNSG, and many Europeans proud," he said in a message posted on Twitter.
According to a UN practice, it is Europe's turn to hold the secretary general position. Russia, a security council permanent member with a veto power, said it would prefer an Eastern European, triggering rumours of a possible veto on Guterres.
Russian support for Georgieva, a vice-president of the EU commission, is not guaranteed. But Borissov announced her candidacy a day after speaking with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which could mean he had some assurances from Moscow.
If Georgieva were to be chosen, she would be the second commissioner to leave the Juncker commission, after Britain's Jonathan Hill quit in June following the Brexit vote in the UK.
The commission said on Wednesday that Georgieva would take an unpaid leave "during the month of October", although the UN process could last longer.
"During this period, Kristalina Georgieva and the European Commission will ensure a strict separation between activities relating to her candidacy and her work as member of the college [of commissioners] in a fully transparent manner," commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.