Rumiana Jeleva's 'Hearing from Hell' leaves Barroso with crisis on his hands - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Rumiana Jeleva's 'Hearing from Hell' leaves Barroso with crisis on his hands

Wednesday, 13 January 2010
I enjoyed speaking with you today," she said before collecting her notes and shuffling quickly out of the Hearing Chamber last night. Somehow, I am not so sure that the Bulgarian Commission-designate Rumiana Jeleva meant that, after she was put under great scrutiny over possible undeclared conflicts of interest in her financial affairs, which left MEPs unconvinced of her suitability.

In light of such question marks beforehand, she faced a real challenge in trying to convince MEPs she was the right person for the job, and the immediate response is quite clear that she failed. Miserably.

Rumiana Jeleva at her hearing (Photo: European Parliament)It is indeed somewhat ironic that it would in fact be Mrs Jeleva (above) who would be responsible for taking the lead in the EU's 'Crisis Response' in her potential position as Commissioner for the newly-created International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response portfolio. But instead Commission President José Manuel Barroso is the one who needs to resolve this crisis, and quick.

In the hearing and in reply to questions asked by Thijs Berman (S&D, NL) at the beginning of the meeting and later on by Michael Cashman (S&D, UK) and Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL), Mrs Jeleva was eventually forced to declare: "I don’t have anything to hide (...) I would like to point out that I have been a public person since 2007. I have declared everything I have been obliged to. Any allegations against my husband or myself are totally, completely unfounded."

But fellow Bulgarian MEP, Antonyia Parvanova, begged to differ. "What Madame Jeleva has said I am afraid is not the truth,” she said adding that she had seen the official Bulgarian documents showing that Mrs Jeleva had managed this company until 9 June 2009. [Note: any undeclared financial interest would put Jeleva in breach of European Parliament rules (as a former MEP) and European Commission rules (as a commissioner).]

Ms Parvanova then claimed that Mrs Jeleva still owned a 60% share in Global Consult, which has been sold and renamed in the meantime, again in contradiction with Bulgarian law.

The Commissioner-designate then did not do herself many favours by seeming to contradict herself in her response, saying she had anticipated the attacks but was unable to indicate the amount for which she had sold her shares in the company.

But it wasn't just on this delicate issue that MEPs remained unsatisfied with her answers. Indeed, it could be argued she failed to show sufficient knowledge of the policy area she had been assigned to.

She responded to most questions in only general terms, pledging to work in cooperation with other commissioners and the Parliament, to visit hotspots personally, and to prepare scenarios in advance. A standard tactic nonetheless but in response to one question, she unbelievably showed her ignorance of the current state the Gulf of Aden (a global hotspot situated between Yemen and Somalia where attacks by pirates have multiplied and Bulgarian nationals among others are being held hostage) saying how she wishes to view and inspect such areas for herself, and to reassure herself about the "communication between field expertise and the local authorities contributing to relief efforts by allowing full and open access to the professional aid workers."

Mrs Jeleva said the humanitarian situation in Congo is 'for a lower-ranking official to know' (Photo:rnw.nl)Later on in another round of questioning, she was pressed to comment on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to which she answered that it was for a lower-ranking official to know such details, adding she was not applying for the position of director-general. Oops...

But at least she was a little realistic, stating an early contender for the understatement of the year award with: "I can assure you that I will not solve the whole problem in Gaza."

How good are you at dealing with 27, or it could be any number, that don't believe what you are saying?" enquired Bill Newton Dunn (ALDE, UK) while Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT) said in a statement “I don’t give a final judgement because we have to decide as a group, of course as a whole, but for the Socialists and Democrats, for the moment, it is a no, that is for the moment.

Compatriot Ivaylo Kalfin (S&D, BG), who served as his country's foreign minister before Mrs Jeleva took over in 2009, said "I don't feel like commenting. It was shameful. Jeleva did not do well."

"She spoke in bad English, and did not give good answers. She told outright lies about the conflict of interest issue," he was quoted by Novinite as saying on national radio.

But it was Dutch Green MEP Mrs Sargentini, a staunch opponent in her questioning during the hearing, who was most outspoken afterwards saying Mrs Jeleva's performance on policy issues was very poor.

"If I was the Bulgarian government, I would immediately nominate somebody else," she said.


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