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Bulgaria's Jeleva withdraws nomination under pressure

Bulgaria's Rumiana Jeleva (pictured) has withdrawn her bid to become EU Commissioner and has stepped down from her post as foreign minister after EU Parliament members accused her of incompetence in a hearing last week.

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AFP - Bulgaria's under-fire EU Commission nominee has withdrawn her bid and resigned as her country's foreign minister, the head of the centre-right group in the European parliament announced on Tuesday.

"I learnt this morning that Mrs (Rumiana) Jeleva is withdrawing from her functions as Bulgarian foreign minister and as commissioner designate" for the humanitarian aid portfolio, European People's Party head Joseph Daul said in Strasbourg.

Jeleva came under fire from members of the European Parliament during a confirmation hearing last week over both her competence for the post and allegations of gaps in her declaration of financial interests.

Sofia swiftly proposed senior World Bank official Kristalina Georgieva as its new EU Commission pick, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said.

Barroso "took note" of Jeleva's withdrawal which came amid accusations of incompetence and allegations that she falsified her declaration of financial interests.

"Bulgarian Prime Minister (Boyko) Borisov has in the meantime informed president Barroso of his intention to suggest Ms Kristalina Georgieva, currently Vice-President of the World Bank, as member of the European Commission," a Commission statement said, welcoming Bulgaria's "swift reaction" to the situation.

The Socialist group in the EU parliament, which has led the criticism against Jeleva, called her decision to withdraw "inevitable and predictable".

"Her decision to go is the best outcome for everyone, including herself," said Socialist leader Martin Schulz.

"After such a poor performance in the parliamentary, which highlighted her incompetence, this outcome was both inevitable and predictable," he added.

"I regret the way in which the EPP group tried desperately to save her despite her performance. It was a serious mistake to put political allegiance before basic competence to do the job," he stormed.

Barroso, who has begun a second five-year term in office, said he would meet her proposed replacement Georgieva as soon as possible, in the hope that the timetable will not slip for his new cabinet to be up and running by February 1.

Over the last week and a half the European parliament has grilled all 26 EU commissioners to be. While Jeleva was not the only one to face some tough grilling it was clear that she posed the biggest hurdle to Barroso's new executive team coming into being.

The MEPs cannot veto any particular commissioner-delegate but can block the whole team if they are not happy.

Several European deputies criticise Jeleva for giving vague answers or worse to questions on her area of competence during the original parliamentary hearing on January 12.

A report by the parliament's legal experts did not reveal any problems with her most recent financial declaration, though it did suggest problems with earlier versions she lodged while a member of the European parliament from 2007-2009.

However by then the focus had switched firmly to her ability to hold down the humanitarian and crisis aid portfolio which will take in the EU's response to the massive earthquake in Haiti.

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