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News 19 Jun 17

Bulgaria’s Gabriel Awaits Grilling Over Digital Portfolio

Media freedom and fake news are among the key topics at Tuesday’s hearing of Mariya Gabriel, Bulgaria’s candidate for EU Digital Economy and Society Commissioner before the European Parliament.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Mariya Gabriel. Photo: www.mariya-gabriel.eu

Mariya Gabriel, a MEP and Vice-Chairwoman of the European People’s Party, is facing a key hearing for her appointment as an European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society on Tuesday.

The Commissioner-designate will be grilled for three hours by MEPs from the Industry, Research and Energy and the Culture and Education Committees of the European Parliament, as well as their colleagues from the Committees for internal market, internal and judicial affairs, whose portfolios are also related to EU’s digital agenda.

To be approved for the Commissioner’s post, Gabriel will have to receive the backing of at least two-thirds of the Committee members.

If she convinces MEPs of her competence to run the digital market portfolio, it would end a six-month period during which Bulgaria was left without a representative in the Commission.

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.

Gabriel was nominated for the EU post by Boyko Borissov’s cabinet on May 10, and shortly after passed an interview with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who designated her the vacant digital portfolio.

But the nomination did not pass without controversy in Bulgaria, where media revealed that during her mandate as an MEP she has used a municipal apartment at a top location in Sofia, rented at a price times lower than the market one and without declaring it.

Prior to the hearing, the EP published Gabriel’s answers to an eight-point questionnaire, containing questions about her qualification for the job, as well as her position on priority issues related to the EU digital agenda.

MEPs expect the new Commissioner not only to speed up the development of the EU digital single market, but to secure funding for Europe’s creative industries, most notably the audiovisual and film sectors.

MEPs will also want to know how Gabriel will guarantee a high-quality and independent press in the EU, as well as how the EU can protect better its citizens from the "fake news" phenomenon.

“As regards ‘fake news’, the Commission’s approach prioritises effective, voluntary forms ofself-regulation combined with targeted regulatory intervention”, the Commissioner-designate has answered, listing a number of tools the EU is developing to counter disinformation.

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