The Slovenia Times

Bratušek Withdraws, New Candidate Violeta Bulc?


While pressure on Bratušek had been mounting since Monday's rough hearing before the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, she resigned only after the committees voted 112-13 against her nomination on Wednesday evening.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Bratušek said she did not want to "aggravate the procedures" related to the appointment of the European Commission. "I want the Slovenian government to pick a new [female] candidate as soon as possible and send its proposal to Brussels."

In a letter to Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker, Bratušek acknowledged having "contributed to the results of yesterday's vote" in the European Parliament, but she also pointed the finger at "political games" that she said affected the outcome.

The decision was accepted by Juncker, who said Bratušek had showed "her commitment to the EU, to Slovenia and to the democratic process" by "helping me to finalise the composition of the European Commission, together with the European Parliament and the Council."

Earlier in the day Juncker had appeared ready to stand by Bratušek despite yesterday's vote, with his spokesperson saying that nothing had changed despite the vote and that the former prime minister was still a commissioner-designate.

The comments were made as the two biggest groups in the European Parliament (EP), the European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), mounted an effort to have Bratušek replaced by S&D MEP Tanja Fajon, an alternate candidate from a list provided by the former Slovenian government to Juncker in early August.

Fajon's name had been floated as a potential replacement ever since Monday's hearing and it became clear that the two political groups central to support for Juncker's team had agreed that they wanted the two-term MEP as a commissioner.

While pundits also seem to be in agreement that this would be the easiest way to fill the Commission, the new Slovenian government headed by Miro Cerar - who was not consulted by his predecessor when the first list of nominees was sent to Juncker in August despite being the winner of the July general election - made it clear today it wants to have a say on the nominee.

Cerar responded to the EPP and S&D lobbying for Fajon by saying that the decision on a new nominee was a sovereign right of Slovenia and the democratically-elected government in the country. He said that efforts by groups in the European Parliament to strong-arm the government would be completely out of line and against the Lisbon Treaty.

While his comments do not rule out Fajon being nominated in the end, media in Slovenia have already begun to speculate that a coalition fight is brewing as Cerar's SMC is apparently in favour of proposing the new Minister for Development Violeta Bulc over Fajon, who is a member of the fellow coalition Social Democrats (SD).

A potential tug-of-war will not be limited to Slovenia, either, as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) in the European Parliament also came out today to voice unwillingness to give up one of the posts in the commission, given that Bratušek had been included in its quota.

Cerar has said that the government will make its decision promptly, with reports suggesting that it could come as early as tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there was bad news for Bratušek today as an ethics investigation into the nomination process conducted by her government that led to her being included on the list for Juncker found that voting for herself amounted to a conflict of interest.

As prime minister, Bratušek had taken part in deciding on a list of candidates, herself included, that the government submitted to Brussels, but she should have excluded herself from the procedure, the Corruption Prevention Commission said in a report released only an hour after Bratušek resigned.

While Bratušek is yet to respond to the report publicly, her lawyer was quoted by public broadcaster RTVSLO as saying that the former prime minister will challenge the finding at the Administrative Court.


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