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News 10 May 17

Gabriel Fills Bulgaria's Vacant EU Commission Post

After nearly six months without an EU Commissioner, Bulgaria has finally named Mariya Gabriel, vice-chair of the European People’s Party, for the post.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Mariya Gabriel. Photo: GERB

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s new cabinet, at its first meeting on Wednesday, nominated Mariya Gabriel, an MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party, for the post of EU Commissioner.

Borissov's office said he had informed the President of the European Commission about the decision.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said Gabriel's portfolio would be determined on May 16 in an interview with Commission President Juncker.

She will most likely obtain the Digital Single Market portfolio, which is vacant.

"Whatever portfolio I receive, my leading priority remains protecting Bulgaria and the European citizens," Gabriel said.

Gabriel’s name had long been circulating as Bulgaria’s probable new EU commissioner.

Rumours intensified after top officials from the governing GERB party - Deputy Prime Ministers Tomislav Donchev and Ekaterina Zaharieva - suggested that the new commissioner will be “a woman” and “an MEP with experience in the European institutions” who would “very likely become in charge of digital economy”.

The nomination ends almost six months in which Bulgaria was left without a representative on the EU executive.

The vacuum opened up after Kristalina Georgieva, former Vice-President of the Commission in charge of Budget and Human Resources between 2014 and 2016, left to become a CEO at the World Bank. Georgieva’s departure followed her unsuccessful bid to become UN Secretary-General in 2016.

Bulgaria nominated Georgieva for the post of UN chief at the last moment after deciding she had better chances than fellow Bulgarian Irina Bokova, current head of UNESCO.

The attempt of Borissov’s former cabinet to push through Georgieva ended in fiasco, however. She performed even worse than Bokova, who remained in the race to run for the post independently, although unsuccessfully.

Gabriel was elected as an MEP from Borissov’s GERB party in 2009 and was re-elected in 2014.

During her second mandate, she was elected vice-chair of the People's Party, the largest political group in the European parliament.

Gabriel was born in 1979 in the south-western city of Gotse Delchev.

She has a BA in French Philology from the University of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, and a Master’s in Comparative Politics and International Relations from the Post-Graduate School of Political Science of Bordeaux in France.

Before becoming an MEP, she lived in Bordeaux, where she was a teaching and research assistant at the Institute of Political Studies.

In 2012, she married Francois Gabriel, who was then part of the team of European People’s Party president Joseph Daul.

As an MEP, Gabriel has been active in the field of women’s rights and gender equality, and was a member of the parliamentary agricultural committee. 

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