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Bulgaria's Zheleva grilled in dramatic European Parliament hearing

Author: The Sofia Echo Staff Date: Tue, Jan 12 2010 17 Comments, 3057 Views
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Drama erupted at a European Parliament committee confirmation hearing of would-be European Commissioner Roumyana Zheleva of Bulgaria, who faced repeated questions about alleged failures to disclose business interests.

Following up allegations made publicly earlier in the day on January 12 2010 about Zheleva, who was a member of the European Parliament from 2007 to 2009, having failed to disclose her ownership and management of a consultancy, MEPs from parties critical of her candidacy questioned her time and again on the issue.

Even before the formal question session started, some parties used their opening statements to raise the issue.

Zheleva, in her opening remarks, ignored the issue, but it was raised about six times in individual questions in the first 90 minutes of proceedings.

Zheleva said that she had documentation proving that all such allegations were false. She said "I am not the owner" of the consultancy company.

An attempt to distribute documentation at the committee hearing failed when a point of order was raised that it was solely in Bulgarian and German and had not been translated into the other EU official languages.

Zheleva told the committee hearing that the allegations, including those raised in some media reports, had arisen from a letter written by Antonia Purvanova, who heads the European Parliamentary delegation of the National Movement for Stability and Progress, a former governing party of Bulgaria that was ousted from power and Bulgaria's Parliament in the 2009 elections won by the party of which Zheleva is a member.

As the hearings wore on, Zheleva appeared flustered and 20 minutes into the question session, switched to her native Bulgarian from the English that she had been speaking initially. When, after some time, questioning returned to topics related to her proposed portfolio - international co-operation, humanitarian aid and emergency response - she returned to answering questions in English.

Purvanova was given special leave, after a point of order was requested, to address the committee. She alleged that notwithstanding Zheleva's statements to the contrary, Zheleva had put herself in a position that was not in accordance with Bulgarian law.

Amid an increasingly heated atmosphere, a proposal was made to adjourn proceedings pending clarity on the allegations against Zheleva, but the chairperson of proceedings said that the question of inquiring into the matter would be left to the co-ordinators to resolve.

"I have really nothing to hide," Zheleva told the committee. Earlier, she said, in response to questions about reports involving her husband - who has been the subject of allegations about which Zheleva has said she will take court action for defamation: "There is nothing illegal in my activities or those of my husband".

She said that anyone who doubted her protestations of innocence was welcome to visit her country to investigate. "Will you come to Bulgaria?" Zheleva challenged one particularly determined inquisitor, Judith Sargentini, Dutch MEP for the GreenLeft party, even inviting her to her home city of Burgas.  

More than 30 minutes later in proceedings, when questioning was about matters related to her proposed portfolio, Zheleva was asked -- in what could be seen as a reference to the earlier part of grilling -- about how she would deal with getting resources from EU countries that were under financial pressure and would be reluctant to spend.

How good are you at dealing with 27 countries that don't believe what you are saying, Zheleva was asked.

She replied that, as Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, she was accustomed to the difficulty of getting consensus at meetings of the councils of ministers.

Pressed repeatedly on the difficulty of sending humanitarian aid to areas such as Sudan and Gaza, Zheleva failed to give specific answers but said she would be visiting these troubled areas as a matter of priority.

Zheleva concluded her grilling with a closing statement that received rather muted applause. Early indications were that her answers were rather short on specifics and had not won over her audience. A journalist, questioning her at the post-hearing press conference, said that he believed that the consensus of opinion was that it would now be difficult to confirm her. Zheleva smiled and said she was still confident that her appointment would be confirmed.

A Swedish journalist again pressed her on whether she had sold the company Global Consult, when she had sold it and how much for. Zheleva said that she had sold the company but could not remember the selling price, adding that "it was not a great sum".  

A decision on Zheleva's confirmation is due on January 26 2010.

  • The Zheleva drama
  • Portrait of a woman drowning
  • Bulgarian Prime Minister speaks of 'plot' against Zheleva
  • EP report: Zheleva was unsatisfactory and inconclusive
  • In profile: Meet Roumyana Zheleva's tormentors
  • Zheleva's problems were poor performance and discrepancies in conflict of interest declaration - MEP Purvanova
  • Borissov reaffirms support for embattled Commissioner-designate Zheleva
  • Word awaited from Barroso, lawyers as Zheleva’s fate hangs in the balance
  • Zheleva faces ‘hard exam’ at European Parliament hearings
  • Jurgen Roth: Bulgaria's European Commissioner-designate target of smear campaign
  • Zheleva’s European Parliament confirmation hearing set for January 12
  • Cohn-Bendit querying Zheleva’s nomination as European Commissioner
    • Anonymous
      me Rating:
      #17 01, 11, Sun, Jan 17 2010

      Valeri, your comments demonstrate nothing, but your own envy, bitterness and national inferiority complex. You are a sad case! Why don't you just go off and take it out some place else and not on The Sofia Echo website. I'm fed up with your cynical and offensive garbage!

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #16 09, 21, Thu, Jan 14 2010

      OK let me ask another way:
      How many total years of your personal Public Assistance pay would it take to buy the car? What do you call it in Sweden - welfare, social, - isn't that what most of the northern losers are on, hence the Bulgarian vacation?
      It burns you that someone like Zheleva buys and sells businesses... You WANT to believe that she's corrupt, don't you? Only if she IS corrupt would you be able to walk away with some imaginary pride and self respect that would allow you to proceed with your average [...]

      Read the full comment existence and gratify your nordic class minded envy....

      Michael, baby - we didn't do it to you. You people just can't stand even one of your own to get ahead, so you did it to yourself - sit and marinate your behinds in your type of socialism, booze to death and off yourselves with depression, my Scandinavian friends - the poorest rich people in Europe.....

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #15 01, 51, Thu, Jan 14 2010

      No Michael,
      you are just upset that luxury goods are our of reach for you and we drive around in cars that you couldn't dream of in Sweden, because of your taxes, and it pisses you off that the people you think are supposed to serve you, on your vacations, are often better off than you.

      Take your problem to your Commie minded fellow Swedes that vote for high taxes, and leave BG alone.

      Not to rub in in but out of curiosity: How much is a new S6, fully [...]

      Read the full comment loaded Audi in Sweden?
      About $200K?

    • Anonymous
      Bulgarian Rating:
      #14 16, 26, Wed, Jan 13 2010

      Not always everything is as it looks like. At the moment, I do not have enough information to assess whether the allegations against Jeleva are justified or not (and my feeling/best guess is that this is also true for most of the ones who have posted here), but see it from this perspective: The people who now attack Jeleva are from exactly the same parties that formed the previous government (tripartite coalition of BSP, NDSV, MRF), a government which was one of the worst, non-effective and above all most corrupted governments so far. Those people are afraid now because during [...]

      Read the full comment the next months many of them might well be confronted with serious criminal charges, and now they bite like a snake that tries to escape. Let's base our opinions on facts, not on rumors. And btw, Mikael's first comment is racist and a disgrace.

    • Anonymous
      flower Rating:
      #13 11, 53, Wed, Jan 13 2010

      as a bulgarian i felt embarrassed even to listen her speech.. shame!

      I thought that the diplomats must have better english than mine

    • Anonymous
      noone Rating:
      #12 01, 49, Wed, Jan 13 2010

      I regret to say it but for the thousand time the Bulgarian population voted for the wrong leaders. I was shocked to know that Rumiana Zheleva was nominated in the first place. She does not have the experience and the knowledge to fulfil that role (her CV is absolutely appalling. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh at her CV masterpiece, now accessible by everyone).
      Nevertheless, I think non-Bulgarians should not underestimate the potential of some Bulgarian politicians and academics. The previous Commissioner Miglena Kuneva was in fact voted 'Commissioner of the Year' by the European Parliament [...]

      Read the full comment and she did an extraordinary work in her field. I only hope that the right decision is taken and Zheleva is not selected. This would help the whole Bulgarian nation to finally realize that political parties with short life and lead by former bodyguards of the ex-communist leader are to be laughed at and not voted for.

    • Anonymous
      Mikael/Sweden Rating:
      #11 00, 46, Wed, Jan 13 2010

      Nope, it's not me that but bulgarian to shame, You are...
      Just do a search on this site for the word "fraud" that will immediately some 40 articles with fraud and embezzlement investigations conducted by the Bulgarian. Chris, Bulgarians can stop there head in the sand and ignore hard facts, but as a Swedish taxpayer I'm not happy that our taxmoney is used to finance Bulgaria's fraud of EU money etc.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #10 23, 47, Tue, Jan 12 2010

      It is rather difficult to find a Bulgarian who is on somewhat prominent position - business or political, not to have some connections with the mafia. This is the way of life in BG. Why was she nominated in the firs place? Why Bulgaria is in EU to begin with?

    • Anonymous
      Chris Rating:
      #9 22, 53, Tue, Jan 12 2010

      Mikael from Sweden:

      "Dirty Bulgarian?" Sorry but your entire comment should be disregarded because of that racist remark. You put us to shame with comments like that. Disgraceful

    • AnonymousmeTue, Jan 12 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

      AnonymousmeTue, Jan 12 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      me Rating:
      #6 21, 46, Tue, Jan 12 2010

      The most important is to support competent people having concrete ideas on how to make things better in their portfolios.
      Is she competent on the top of all?

    • AnonymousmeTue, Jan 12 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

      AnonymousmeTue, Jan 12 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

      AnonymousmeTue, Jan 12 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      Mikael/Sweden Rating:
      #2 21, 31, Tue, Jan 12 2010

      There had been reports that her husband was involved in the Bulgarian mafia, and the German media called her the gangster chick.

      The memory is short with her,
      "Zheleva said that she had sold the company but could not remember the selling price, adding that" it was not a great sum "."

      "Do not mind selling" Ye right.
      Just another dirty bulgarian.

    • Anonymous
      J.G Rating:
      #1 20, 28, Tue, Jan 12 2010

      Who wants to throw the first stone? Just be happy a Bulgarian is asked for this position. We should all back her.

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