THE COMPELLING GLAMOUR OF EUROPEAN BUREAUCRACY
The joyous echo of the long-awaited yes from the European Commission hasn't faded away yet and a new test is facing the rulers. It consists in the Government's obligation to nominate the Bulgarian representatives in the common institutions of the European Union (EU). The task may look an easy one, but only at first sight. The temptation for clerks to write their names in history as Bulgaria's first European bureaucrats in Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg predetermines a bitter struggle behind the curtains for allocation of the posts.
The first volleys between the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) were exchanged because of the forthcoming European commissioner who will join the team led by Jose Manuel Barroso from the beginning of 2007. Bulgaria's Vice Prime Minister Ivaylo Kalfin broke the good diplomatic tone in the coalition and made a statement against Meglena Kouneva, the NMSII official nominee.
According to the country's first diplomat, there are better candidatures for the commissioner's post than the one of Bulgaria's chief negotiator. The statement brought to light the cold war between Kalfin's team and the group led by Kouneva that had been hidden for about a year. Last spring the foreign minister made an attempt to take away the leading role in the contacts with the member states from his colleague by signing the scandalous deal with the Israeli lobbyist Shimon Sheves.
People familiar with the situation comment that by demonstrating his disapproval of Kouneva Kalfin is now smoothing the way for Miglena Plougchieva who is close to the left wing. President Georgi Parvanov is personally believed to be speaking up for the country's Ambassador to Berlin and former deputy minister of agriculture. Anyway, she is expected to be nominated by BSP as a commissioner applicant most probably after October 25. This is when the German Bundestag should ratify the agreement for Bulgaria's accession which can also be presented as a fine piece of work done by Ambassador Plougchieva.
Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev who received an official letter from the European Commission President Jose Barroso last week inviting the commissioner selection process to begin is still refusing to say concrete names. However, in an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio Stanishev described the profile of Bulgaria's future representative in Brussels which, to many people's surprise, coincided with that of... Meglena Kouneva. She meets at least three of the Premier's criteria - she's a long-time expert, a well-known name in the Belgian capital, and has detailed knowledge of the functioning of the common European institutions. A senior European Commission official who accompanied Jose Barroso and Olli Rehn during their recent visit to Sofia commented for the BANKER weekly that it would be rather natural for the Bulgarian minister of European affairs to be appointed European commissioner from the Bulgarian quota. Poland and Slovenia chose an approach of the kind in 2004.
It is not known which fields the Bulgarian and the Romanian commissioners will be entrusted from next January, either. According to publications in the western press, some of the present commissioners may be relieved from part of their responsibilities. The press mentioned Franco Frattini, justice commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, industrial policy commissioner, and Marcos Kyprianou, consumer protection commissioner.
The same curiosity is surrounding the election of a Bulgarian magistrate to the Luxembourg-based European court. He should be proposed by the cabinet and approved by the governments of the other member states. Representatives of the ruling coalition do not rule out that the post might be used as a pawn in the negotiations between BSP and NMSII for the European commissioner. It means that if someone close to the yellow movement goes to Brussels, a magistrate close to the red party will appear in Luxembourg.
A prestigious post in the Great Dukedom after January 1 will also be arranged for one of Bulgaria's leading financiers who will complete the national quota in the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank. Among the names mentioned unofficially is the Deputy Minister of Finance Dimitar Ivanovski. His superior Plamen Oresharski will represent Bulgaria in the Managing Board of the Bank. As to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Bulgaria will be represented in its General Council by Ivan Iskrov, Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank. His subordinates will take part in the sessions of the various commissions of the European System of Central Banks.
By year-end, the Council of Ministers is to approve a representative to the European Court of Auditors, too.
There are fewer questions regarding the selection of Bulgarian representatives in the two consultative bodies of the European Union - the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Council. Bulgaria will have twelve posts in each of them at the beginning of 2007.
Bulgarians who have no chance to reach the top levels of bureaucracy can still hope they will be able to work as ordinary administrators in any of the common institutions. In order to be eligible, though, they need to pass through the screen of competitions organized by the European Personnel Selection Office.