Bulgaria’s nominee well-received by MEPs

FT – Bulgaria’s replacement nominee for the European Commission delivered a competent performance on Wednesday at a European Parliament confirmation hearing, smoothing the way for the new Commission to win approval next week.

Kristalina Georgieva was thrust into the role as commissioner-designate for humanitarian aide and crisis response after Bulgaria’s first choice for the job, Rumiana Jeleva, was forced to withdraw last month amid questions about her qualifications and business dealings.

“When the call came, I felt it was my duty,” Ms Georgieva, a former World Bank vice-president, told MEPs, explaining the circumstances of her nomination.

Her three-hour hearing was markedly different from the stormy session in which Green, Socialist and Liberal MEPs grilled a shaky-but-defiant Ms Jeleva.

Her subsequent withdrawal has added to delays in seating the new Commission so that it can begin its five-year term while serving as another example of the Parliament’s growing authority in Brussels. It also touched off a wave of recriminations among the Parliament’s political groups.

By contrast, Ms Georgieva found a more supportive audience on Wednesday. She was treated to a round of applause after her opening remarks. At one point, Ivo Vajgl, a Liberal MEP, praised her, saying: “let me compliment you on your peaceful manner and the confidence you are exuding today”.

During the hearing, Ms Georgieva praised the speed and generosity of theEuropean Union’s response to the Haiti earthquake – something that has come in for criticism in many quarters.

“If I’m confirmed, it will be my immediate duty to make sure we Europeans bring to Haiti the best our union has to offer,” she said.

Still, the nominee allowed that there was a need to make the EU response to such disasters faster, more coherent and more visible in the future.

She repeatedly skirted questions about whether she would support the establishment of a common EU reaction force to accomplish that goal, saying that such an initiative would have to be discussed with Lady Ashton, the EU’s new foreign policy chief.

Ms Georgieva also said that she would have to further study the proper role of the military in aid work.

The nominee ended the session by promising to fulfil an old request from her mother – 89 years old on Wednesday, and a survivor of the second world war and the partition of Europe.

“If my nomination is confirmed, I will make the effort to learn French,” she told MEPs, who showered her in applause.


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