18th Dec 2018

Parliament asks commission for clarity on Jeleva

  • Rumiana Jeleva - under fire from some but protected by others (Photo: © European Union, 2010)

European Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek on Thursday afternoon (14 January) sent a letter to his counterpart in the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, asking for clarifications on the Bulgarian commissioner-designate.

The letter was sent in the aftermath of a stormy parliament hearing on Tuesday (12 January) in which MEPs accused Rumiana Jeleva of making incomplete financial disclosures concerning a company called Global Consult.

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It asks Mr Barroso two questions on whether Ms Jeleva's declaration of interest is in conformity with the commission's code of conduct - rules governing commissioner behaviour including financial disclosure - and whether he still feels confident that the Bulgarian national can take up the portfolio of international relations and humanitarian aid following her hearing in parliament.

"I can confirm we have received [a letter] on the hearing of Mrs Jeleva and the president will reply in due course," a commission spokesperson said.

The letter asks that Mr Barroso reply on Friday but it is not clear when the president will actually put pen to paper. The parliament's legal service is supposed to give its opinion on the matter on Monday as is the development committee, which held the Jeleva hearing.

The confusion concerns when Ms Jeleva ended her involvement with Global Consult. She says it ended in 2007 when she became a centre-right EU deputy. However, fellow Bulgarian, liberal MEP Antonyia Parvanova, has accused her of lying.

Ms Jeleva says she has documentation which exonerates her - these papers and others are now being examined by the parliament's lawyers.

The commission has been taking a hands off approach so far, saying it cannot intervene or make comments while the assessment process is still being carried out.

There is also some exasperation among commission officials who believe that MEPs are asking the commission to do what is in fact the parliament's own job.

They note that the alleged gaps in Ms Jeleva's financial disclosure are for the time when she was an MEP, so they believe the parliament should first see if its own rules have been broken.

The political drama has transfixed Brussels. Ms Jeleva, who was apparently ready to throw in the towel after the hearing which also saw MEPs complain about her answers on substance, has since received strong backing from her political family, the European People's Party.

EPP chief Joseph Daul has complained of a witchhunt, while other members of the party have set their sights on Slovak commissioner designate, Maros Sefcovic, a socialist due for his hearing next week.

In an apparent tit-for-tat move, centre-right officials have unearthed an alleged quote he made in 2005 claiming that Roma people abuse the Slovak welfare system.

Meanwhile, liberal MEPs are wary of launching a full frontal attack on the Bulgarian in case the EPP targets the liberal commission candidate, Finland's Olli Rehn, in return.

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