Mariya Gabriel (right in white jacket), EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Affairs posing for a team photo on the sidelines of an informal meeting between EU's research ministers, in the Scandinavian XPO in Marsta outside Stockholm, Sweden 08 February 2023. EPA-EFE/Fredrik Sandberg/TT SWEDEN OUT


EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel tipped to become Bulgaria’s next prime minister


The European Commission looks set to lose a Commissioner now that Bulgaria’s biggest parliamentary group has asked Mariya Gabriel to become prime minister of her country.

Commission President von der Leyen granted unpaid leave to Gabriel on May 10 to participate in negotiations to form a new government in Bulgaria, a Commission spokeswomen said.

Her European portfolio, that includes education and research, will be handled by Commissioners Vestager and Schinas.

As for Gabriel’s replacement in Brussels, Bulgaria has to designate a candidate.

During the May 10 press briefing in Brussels, a journalist from Bulgaria pointed out that under the previous Commission, a Bulgarian Commissioner left Brussels for the International Monetary Fund and was not replaced for around two years. He asked if von der Leyen could guarantee a replacement, but the spokeswomen declined to answer speculative questions.

The Bulgarian centre-right GERB party won elections on April 2 but has had difficulties finding coalition partners. To solve this, party leader Boyko Borissov is looking to Gabriel as a respected leader for people to rally behind.

Bulgaria has seen a period of political turmoil and five consecutive elections without a stable government. Borissov hopes to prevent the need for new elections this summer, which could impact the drawing up of a budget.

“Our prime minister will be a person who can lead the economy, industry, and modernisation in the direction we all expect,” he said.

Gabriel has served as Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education, and youth in Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission, after holding the post of digital commissioner under former President Jean-Claude Juncker.