The Slovenia Times

Violeta Bulc Nominated for EU Commissioner


Bulc, 50, is a complete novice in politics, which she entered less than a month ago as a member of the Miro Cerar cabinet, having previously served several executive positions in major companies and, more recently, running her own consultancy.

Cerar expressed his expectation that the new candidate be backed in Brussels and that "political dribbling" will not affect the decision. He said Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker was "very well aware" of how important it is to form a new Commission as soon as possible.

Juncker "brought to my attention certain developments on the European political scene, but gave me a free hand entirely, since he understands that this is in the domain of the Slovenian government", according to Cerar.

The statement highlights the problems that Bratušek's resignation caused, in particular for the novice government. Not only was Cerar forced to act soon to prevent delaying the inauguration of a new Commission, he also had to pick a liberal female in order not to disrupt the delicate political balance of Juncker's team.

Partially as a result, Bulc's appointment did not go smoothly: it was confirmed by the cabinet at a correspondence session whose rules stipulate that abstention counts as a yes vote, the only way Cerar's party was able to push it through.

There had been rumours that eschewing consensus could spell trouble for the coalition, but both of Cerar's coalition partners suggested they would not make a fuss, though they made it clear they were displeased with the choice.

"We will not create a government crisis out of this, but this was the wrong decision," Social Democrat (SD) leader Dejan Židan said.

Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) president Karl Erjavec made a thinly veiled threat, warning Cerar against using similar voting tactics when a EUR 40m allowance for pensioners is on the agenda.

The partners' qualms are understandable: the SD was firmly behind its MEP Tanja Fajon (S&D/SD), while Erjavec himself was one of the three candidates originally put forward as Slovenia's commission nominees.

Indeed, Fajon was considered the top pick and received support from both of the biggest groups in the European Parliament, the European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialists (S&D), in what was a clear message to Cerar.

However, the prime minister rejected the overtures, saying he would not be dictated by the European Parliament.

For now the big European Parliament factions are reserving judgement about Bulc until the hearing. Brussels insiders think Bulc will pass as long as she performs better in her hearing than Bratušek, which many consider as a low bar.

After all, comments in Brussels media suggest the EPP-S&D "grand coalition" sent a strong enough message to Juncker by rejecting one of his candidates and they are unlikely to pick another fight unless the hearing is a disaster.

The media are now speculating which portfolio Bulc could get. Things will be clearer once Juncker has held an interview with her, presumably on Monday, but energy union, the slot reserved for Bratušek, is probably out of the question.

The most likely scenario involves giving the energy union portfolio to the German Günther Oettinger and Bulc getting his digital agenda brief, which would appear suitable given that she has served on the boards of two telecoms companies.

However, there could be a broader reshuffle that would also include the Hungarian Tibor Navracics, who was confirmed as commissioner but will have to lose at least the citizenship portion of his portfolio.


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