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Mariya Gabriel gives up her MEP seat, ‘takes the risk’ of staying as commissioner

Mariya Gabriel in the Commission office. [Europe by Satellite]

By Krassen Nikolov

The incumbent European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel led the European election list of GERB, the EPP-affiliated party of Boyko Borissov, and was elected as an MEP.

But on Monday (3 June) Gabriel announced that in spite of being elected, she gives up her seat as MEP. She added that although there was a risk for her not to be a part of the new Commission, she would remain commissioner until the end of her term. Gabriel said the decision was consulted with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who in her words accepted the idea.

Gabriel explained that in the 5 to 6 months remaining until the end of the mandate of the Juncker Commission she could not imagine that Bulgaria would remain without a commissioner, while important issues such as the “reducing the number of commissioners”, accepting Bulgaria in ERM II and Schengen were going to be discussed.

“It is said that I have turned the portfolio “Digital Economy and Society” from nothing to one of the most powerful sectors in the European Commission. It is no coincidence that this is a priority of all the EU countries. In this context, I cannot afford not to be a member of the European Commission. I cannot think even for a moment that Bulgaria will not have a commissioner for the next six months,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel’s MEP seat will be taken by the next in line, Lilyana Pavlova, who was the minister responsible for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2018.

Presumably Borissov plans to leave Mariya Gabriel as a commissioner in the next EU executive. It is assumed that he doesn’t nourish hopes that Kristalina Georgieva would be a serious contender for the presidency of the next European Commission. But it is also possible that Borissov would drop Gabriel in the autumn and play for Kristalina Georgieva at the last moment.

From what Gabriel said it becomes clear that she was aware of this unfavorable option. She said she is assuming the risk of not being elected to the new European Commission.

A week ago, Prime Minister Borissov refused to reveal his cards. At the EU summit doorstep, when he was asked by Georgi Gotev can Bulgaria afford Gabriel to be left without a Commissioner, if Gabriel leaves the EU executive to become an MEP, he replied: “Do you know more than I do?”

While Gabriel was explaining her position to one of the national televisions, Pavlova said in an interview to another channel that Gabriel could stay as commissioner for more than six months, if the mandate of the current Commission is extended.

The name of Kristalina Georgieva has reportedly been mentioned at the EU summit in Sibiu, when EU top jobs have been briefly discussed. She was Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources of the European Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker from 2014 to 2016, when she resigned and took a job in the World Bank. Before that, from 2010 to 2014 she was European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. She is not politically affiliated, but considered close to the EPP.

Georgieva has the support of the Visgrad group, which is strange, given that he has repeatedly taken positions in favour of accepting immigrants, even claiming that they could solve Bulgaria’s demographic problems.

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