21st Oct 2016

EU prepares to let commissioner go to UN

  • EU budget commissioner Kristalina Georgieva (l) with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon (c) and EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: European Commission)

Bulgaria's government meets on Tuesday (13 September) amid rumours it may nominate the Bulgarian EU commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, as its official candidate for the next UN chief.

The country’s current choice, Unesco boss Irina Bokova, reportedly faces opposition among some permanent members of the UN security council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States).

The speculation that Sofia could replace her with Georgieva emerged over the weekend, but has not been confirmed.

Martin Selmayr, the influential head of cabinet of the EU commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, fuelled debate on Twitter last Saturday by saying that Georgieva "would make strong UNSG [UN secretary general], and many Europeans proud".

But a commission spokesman explained on Monday the tweet was not an official endorsement, adding: "I don't think one conclusion [her candidacy] follows from the other [Selmayr's praise]".

Meanwhile, the outgoing UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, would like to see a female successor. Civil society groups and nearly a third of the 193 UN member states have rallied behind his call. The UN has never had a female leader in its 70 years of history.

Amid the swirl of rumour, one EU official told this website that many people in Brussels would be delighted to see Georgieva take the helm in New York.

”It would be a great loss for us, but it would be fantastic for the UN. She could do a great job", he said.

”The question is whether she would be acceptable to Russia,” he added.

Moscow had previously championed Bokova.

But according to Russia’s state-run agency Tass, German chancellor Angela Merkel recently tried to make Georgieva's case to president Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in China.

Sofia has not officially included the Bulgarian candidacy for the UN post in the cabinet’s agenda.

One source in Sofia also told the Reuters news agency that it is ”odd” for others to try to sway its choice of nominee.

"The Bulgarian prime minister is in a very difficult situation … Seems he has not decided yet," the source said.

The next secretary general will be chosen by the UN general assembly and the security council later this month.

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