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Irina Bokova stands good chances for becoming UNESCO’s next Director General

Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashifov paid a visit to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris September 8 - 11, to lobby for Irina Bokova's nomination for Director General of UNESCO.Photo: Maria Dimitrova
The start was given in Paris of the hearing of the nine candidates for the position of Director General of UNESCO.
Bulgaria’s candidature of Ambassador to France Irina Bokova enters the competition standing good chances in what appears to be a very hard competition with no special favorites standing out. Our candidate was the only contender to have conducted a real campaign by visiting 45 UNESCO states accompanying either Bulgaria’s President or the Foreign Minister. The moment has come to collect the fruit of this yearlong work.

During the last few months of this campaign UNESCO was a true boiling pot of obvious or hidden acts in the strife after supremacy on one continent or another and in view of geopolitical interests. The forces are quite leveled and most of the candidates – worthy of heading this world organization for education, science and culture, which is apparently in need of fresh ideas.

The most often pointed out, as a favorite Minister of Culture of Egypt - Farouk Hosni, was also the most criticized candidate lately. After 30 years in this office 71 years-old Hosni attracted the anger of democratic public opinion with the phrase he let slip off in Parliament that he would burn every single Israeli book that enters the Alexandrian Library. This was quite confusing for a candidate to become director general of an organization like UNESCO. These were words that placed in an uneasy position also a number of European countries that were previously liable to support his ambitions due to the important geopolitical role Egypt plays in the Middle East. In May this year three prominent French intellectuals of Jewish origin, among whom philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy launched a battle for not allowing “such a shame” for UNESCO. They received the support of Reporters without Frontiers who drew public attention to a series of facts pointing to the lack of freedom for mass media in Egypt. Even though in Egypt Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is an ambiguously viewed personality, under the pressure of President Hosni Moubarak for whom the candidature is a matter of honor, the Egyptian candidate received the official support of the countries of the African Union as well as those of the Arab League. Meanwhile this pressure gave no result under the new US President and the issue of Farouk Hosni was avoided during Obama’s first meeting with his Egyptian counterpart. By the way, the existence of another two candidatures from Africa and one from another Arab country points to a cracking in the support for Hosni.

There are three candidates from the European Union – Irina Bokova, Bulgaria; Ina Marciulionyte – ambassador of Lithuania to Paris and Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner on Foreign Relations. UNESCO has never in its history been headed by a woman and there is a will in related media to see this lack of balance overcome. Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Paris Irina Bokova is considered a favorite due to her reliability and competence. She has received excellent education in Sofia, Moscow, Harvard and Maryland. She is a lady of 57 with a busy political and diplomatic career and a name among UNESCO leading figures. These are all qualities that together with her excellent campaign could bring her the victory in the race. That in turn would be a factor substantially increasing the international significance of this country.

Written by: Maria Dimitrova
English version: Iva Letnikova

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