Bulgarian Georgieva impresses with 'perfect' performance in final hearing - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Bulgarian Georgieva impresses with 'perfect' performance in final hearing

Thursday, 4 February 2010
Those tuning in yesterday hoping to see another Bulgarian candidate face a grilling by MEPs in a Commissioner hearing would have left disappointed as Kristalina Georgieva, the replacement nominee, delivered a "perfect" performance on Wednesday at her hearing before the European Parliament.

Kristalina Georgieva in her Hearing (Photo: AFP)Kristalina Georgieva, above, who until recently was a Vice-President of the World Bank, was thrust into the role as commissioner-designate for humanitarian aid 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.

Her three-hour hearing was markedly different from Mrs Jeleva's stormy session, mainly because Mrs Georgieva proved her competence for the job, impressing MEPs with her answers, her faith in the Parliament and her ambitions if she got the job. Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov even later described her performance as “perfect" to Bulgarian media.

The hearing in Brussels on Wednesday opened with questions surrounding the EU's response to the terrible earthquake that hit Haiti causing mass devastation in the country's capital Port-au-Prince.

Mrs Georgieva quickly identified two priority tasks for the response: providing immediate relief, especially shelter and health services, and secondly the reestablishment of the country's government, so reconstruction and long-term development work can begin.

EU aid reaching Haiti"Haiti starts from scratch, but not alone. If I am confirmed, it will be my immediate duty to make sure we Europeans bring to Haiti the best our Union has to offer," she said.

The Commissioner-designate continued that the EU can be proud of being the biggest donor of humanitarian aid, but added "we need to convince the Member states that a European protection mechanism would make sense and to move this discussion forward."

She stressed the need to improve the effectiveness of EU actions, to better respond to such crises in the future to "make our fellow European citizens proud of their support for humanitarian aid and disaster response."

She did however repeatedly skirt around questions on whether she would support the establishment of a common EU reaction force to accomplish that goal (as previously advocated by Herman van Rompuy) saying that such an initiative would have to be discussed with the EU’s new foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton, but overall was impressive.

The 56-year old was clearly on form, and it was notable how well prepared, confident and quick she was able to respond to members' questions. At one point, the Committee's vice-chair Nirj Deva (ECR, UK) asked her: "Are you prepared to fight against vested interests?" to which came the swift definite reply of "Yes Sir!" to appreciative laughter and widespread applause from members. "Do you have a follow-up question?" Mr Deva was asked, "Not after that answer but I hope other Commissioners heard that…"

Further applause ensued when she replied to a question from an MEP about why she answered the call to replace Mrs Jeleva: "There are four areas in the work of the European Commission with which I am engaged and I am very happy that I was offered namely that portfolio," she said.

"We had to face quite unusual circumstances. People in Bulgaria were not pleased. When I was invited, I felt that it is my duty.”

Twitter (Photo: Screengrab)In response to a question from Bill Newton-Dunn (ALDE, UK) about the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs, Mrs Georgieva stated that although she is a member of the old generation she is now catching up with social networking tools and praised Twitter as a “powerful tool” and one she would use to mobilise public support for the EU's future humanitarian efforts.

It was almost as if she could do no wrong, an observation made by Michael Cashman (S&D, UK) who when given the floor said he does not have to ask her any questions, because during her hearing in the EP he was persuaded of her high expertise and intellect.

"I'm not going to ask you a question because you have already shown impressive intellectual capacity. I think we’d better switch to the procedure of approving your candidacy as soon as possible,” he said, which began another round of applause in the hall.

In a final act of humility, Mrs Georgieva revealed it was also her mother's 89th birthday and she had always wanted her daughter to learn French. "She has always believed in Europe and she has always wanted me to learn French. I've never done this and if you give me your trust and I'm confirmed in this role, I will honour the pledge that I made her and I will make an effort to learn French!"

She then read a prepared phrase in what can only be described as amateur French which was warmly appreciated not only by the French-speaking members present.

Mrs Georgieva's performance will please Commission President José Manuel Barroso whose new team is set to receive the Parliamentary nod in a vote scheduled for 9th February in Strasbourg.

The only question that has been left unanswered by the hearing is simply 'why was she not selected first time around?'

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