18th Jan 2019

Future of Bulgarian nominee in doubt after hostile hearing

  • Ms Jeleva takes questions at the parliament hearing on Tuesday (Photo: EUobserver)

The future of Bulgarian commission nominee Rumiana Jeleva hangs in the balance after MEPs opted to ask Jose Manuel Barroso if she lied about her ownership of a company.

The chiefs of the EU parliament's development committee took the decision at a behind-closed-doors meeting on Tuesday evening (12 January) following a public hearing with Ms Jeleva which nearly broke down in disorder as allegations flew left and right.

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"We've called for two pieces of advice: One from [EU commission president] Mr Barroso, which is to be delivered within 24 hours, and one from the legal services in the parliament, which has no particular deadline at this time," the Liberal group's committee co-ordinator, Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens, told EUobserver.

"If the answers are not satisfying to us, then it's really very difficult for her - that's clear."

Mr Barroso, in what is likely to be a written statement, is to shed light on what the commission's internal audit of the Bulgarian foreign minister has found out, while the parliament lawyers are to study documents submitted by Ms Jeleva and her antagonists, he explained.

The controversy surrounds Ms Jeleva's role in Global Consult, a Bulgarian privatisation firm. Ms Jeleva has declared that her involvement in the company ended in 2007 when she became a centre-right EU deputy. But Bulgarian Liberal MEP Antonyia Parvanova claims that she owned the firm until April 2009 in violation of Bulgarian law.

The public hearing, designed to check if Ms Jeleva is fit to become commissioner for humanitarian aid, saw the palpably nervous 40-year-old protest her innocence and invite MEPs to her home town of Burgas to clear up the issue with local authorities.

"I think we should really concentrate on humanitarian aid. There are many people suffering in this world, even losing their lives, and we are wasting time here with unfounded allegations," she said.

"What Madame Jeleva has said was not the truth," Ms Parvanova replied, after taking the floor in a break with normal protocol.

The two women began circulating documents on the case in Bulgarian and German among MEPs and press. Parliament officials were then instructed to take the papers back. But a number of people refused to hand them over, generating an air of disorder that proved too much for some.

"We should suspend this hearing until we have a proper atmosphere," far-left German deputy Gabriele Zimmer said.

Back on topic

In the part of the debate on her portfolio, Ms Jeleva said she would fight for governments to respect humanitarian law and to improve the safety of charity workers in conflict zones.

She promised a number of projects, including the creation of a new EU headquarters for handling civilian crises, the establishment of an EU volunteers' corps and a "huge international forum" on ending humanitarian abuses.

She also promised new policy papers on sexual violence against women and on setting up a monitoring centre for drought and forest fires, as well as to visit hotspots such as Gaza and Somalia in person.

Her answers to several detailed questions, such as how to involve the International Criminal Court in The Hague in her work or what went wrong in the UN's efforts to protect civilians in Congo, failed to impress a number of deputies, however.

"I was really disappointed. She didn't give a clear and concrete analysis," the Socialist group's committee co-ordinator, Dutch MEP Thijs Berman, told this website.

"When asked on improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the best she could say was that she plans to go there," German green MEP Ska Keller said.

The EU parliament has the power to reject Mr Barroso's commission team as a whole via a plenary vote. But it can also use the threat of its veto to target individual nominees for dismissal, as it did in 2004.

Socialists question competence of Lithuanian nominee

The Socialist group in the European Parliament on Tuesday took aim at Lithuania's commissioner designate, raising "serious doubts" about his ability to deal with the tax and anti-fraud portfolio.

Conservatives counter-attack in defence of Jeleva

The Parliament's centre-right group mounted an attack on one of the left's commissioner candidates on Wednesday, while defending their own contested nominee from Bulgaria. The political scrap may delay plans to have the new European Commission up and running on 1 February.

MEPs to decide Bulgarian candidate's fate

The fate of Bulgarian commission nominee Rumiana Jeleva is to be decided on Tuesday at a behind-closed-doors meeting of MEPs on the development committee, after parliament lawyers said her financial declaration is broadly in line with the rules.

MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

The EU parliament's internal chiefs have so far refused to introduce mandatory training on dealing with sexual harassment. MEPs have now asked for it again.

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

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