EU budget commissioner Georgieva joins UN secretary general race

29 Sep 16

The European Union’s budget chief Kristalina Georgieva has entered the race to become United Nations secretary general after fellow Bulgarian Irina Bokova failed to win the needed support.


Kristalina Georgieva, European commissioner for budget and human resources. Credit: European Union

Kristalina Georgieva, European commissioner for budget and human resources, has entered the race to become United Nations secretary general. Credit: European Union


Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borisov, put forward Georgieva’s nomination after being disappointed by Bokova’s performance in the first five straw polls conducted by the UN’s Security Council.

In a statement issued yesterday, Georgieva said she was “deeply honoured” to have had her name put forward and announced she would accept the nomination.

Georgieva would fit the bill in terms of demand for a female candidate, as well as Russia’s call for an eastern European UN chief.

Despite these credentials, Georgieva, the European commissioner for budget and human resources, enters the race in a relatively weak position.

She has the support of countries like Germany, who tried to advocate for her to take the role during the most recent G20 meetings in Hangzhou, China.

But Germany is not a member of the five-strong permanent security council, and its attempts to interfere annoyed those who actually are. As well as a prompting a fierce backlash from Russia, the move disconcerted France and may have only served to foster French reluctance to back Georgieva.

Russia may never have endorsed Georgieva anyway. While an eastern European, she also holds a key position in the European Commission. Her work in this post has won her a good reputation, but it also means she plays a part in enforcing the EU’s current sanctions against Russia.

As a result, the Kremlin may chose to use its veto to prevent Georgieva taking the helm of the UN. However this is also a possibility for the current front runner in the race, former Portuguese prime minister and head of the UN refugee agency António Guterres.

Guterres has emerged as the clear winner in the straw polls that have taken place so far and his wide support puts pressure on Russia to accept him. Britain is therefore also concerned about Georgieva entering the race, in case this diverts support away from Guterres and opens the door for Russia to veto Guterres if he wins.

As a late entry, Georgieva will also have to play catch up. The next move will be to unveil her manifesto to the UN General Assembly in a public presentation – a new procedure introduced to the leadership contest this year in an effort to open up a process widely criticised for its secrecy.

The straw polls conducted by the security council, however, remain confidential. In the ballots, members can either encourage, discourage or offer no opinion on a candidate in a process aimed at settling on a individual that has a majority backing. 

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