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10th Dec 2016

EU commission vote delayed as Bulgarian nominee steps down

  • Ms Georgieva: the EU's new humanitarian aid commissioner? (Photo: president.tatar.ru)

Following days of questions over her financial interests and her competence to be the EU's aid commissioner, Bulgaria's Rumiana Jeleva on Tuesday (19 January) stepped aside as her country's nominee in a move that is to delay the installation of the new commission for several weeks.

Ms Jeleva announced her resignation in a letter sent to commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and Joseph Daul, the leader of the centre-right EPP, her political family.

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The page long letter, bitter in tone, complains about a three month campaign seeking to "fully discredit" her, meaning she feared she would not be treated objectively when MEPs in the development committee were due to take their decision on her late on Wednesday.

Mr Daul said he was "very sorry" to hear of her decision and called her the "victim of a rather contemptible little squabble."

Mr Barroso said he "took note" of Ms Jeleva's withdrawal and welcomed the "swift reaction of the Bulgarian government to this situation."

Sofia plans to send Kristalina Georgieva, currently a vice-president of the World Bank, as its replacement candidate.

The Socialist group, which had originally gone after Ms Jeleva on financial interest questions and then on her suitability for the post, said her resignation was "inevitable and predictable."

"Her decision to go is the best outcome for everyone, including herself," said the group's leader Martin Schulz.

The Jeleva machinations mean the parliamentary vote on the entire commission, due next week on 26 January, will be delayed. It is now to take place on 9 February, parliament chief Jerzy Buzek said.

"Next week we won't have a vote on the commission," said Mr Daul, adding that as all the other commission nominees had six weeks to prepare for their hearings, "the new candidate should be given at least a couple of weeks." The new Bulgarian nominee is expected to be grilled by MEPs on 3 February.

Having come under attack for playing tit-for-tat politics when the EPP went after Slovak socialist nominee Maros Sefcovic in the wake of the Jeleva kerfuffle, Mr Daul said "don't expect any blood on the carpet. We are a responsible group."

He went on to berate Catherine Ashton, the socialist EU foreign policy chief, for not travelling to the devastated earthquake-struck Haiti over the weekend, however.

Meanwhile, Jozsef Szajer, a Hungarian MEP overseeing the hearings process for the EPP group, highlighted Olli Rehn (a Liberal nominee), Neelie Kroes (a Liberal) and Maria Damanaki (a socialist) for being unimpressive in their cross-examinations.

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