Kristalina Georgieva.jpg
EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva
Photograph: EPA/LAURENT DUBRULE

EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday entered the race to be the next UN secretary general after Bulgaria nominated her as its second candidate.

There had been speculation for weeks that Georgieva would be nominated. Bulgaria's initial candidate, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, was considered a strong contender, but then placed sixth in a recent round of secret polling.

"We gave [her] a last chance," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said Wednesday. "We think that [Georgieva's] will be the more successful candidacy."

Critics consider Bokova to be too Russia-friendly. She said on Twitter she would staying in the race.

"Grateful to you all who support me and fully committed to continue the race for #NextSG!" she wrote.

Georgieva, 63, is among the European Commission's longest-serving members. She currently is the vice president overseeing issues relating to the European Union's budget. From 2010-14 she was in charge of humanitarian aid and international cooperation.

"She is one of our best commissioners," commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had said last week.

Georgieva will take an unpaid leave of absence from the EU's executive in October to campaign for the UN top post, Schinas said Wednesday.

"During this period, Kristalina Georgieva and the European Commission will ensure a strict separation between activities relating to her candidacy and her work as member of the college [of EU commissioners]," he added.

The UN received Bulgaria's official letter nominating Georgieva later on Wednesday, Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly, said on Twitter.

Countries had the right to nominate as many candidates as they wished, a spokesman for Thomson told dpa.

As all other candidates for the top UN post this year, Georgieva will be asked to participate in a two-hour informal hearing with UN member states to lay out her platform. The hearing is likely to be held on Monday.

Bulgaria believes that under unwritten UN rules, an eastern European should replace UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will leave at the end of this year after serving two terms.

Antonio Guterres, former Portuguese prime minister and former UN high commissioner for refugees, has topped the polling thus far.

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