Kristalina Georgieva - "Salzburg Defines Who I Am"

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Oct 28, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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Kristalina Georgieva - "Salzburg Defines Who I Am"

EU Commissioner highlights Salzburg Global's impact on her career Commissioner Georgieva speaking at this year's Board of Directors Weekend

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response has credited Salzburg Global for changing her life.

The Bulgarian economist and politician attended the seminar as a participant in 1990 on ‘Negotiation Theory and Practice: Environmental Disputes’.

Speaking to Salzburg Global about her first visit, she said: “That was my first exposure to the big world, [which was] extremely enriching on its own, but it also triggered a huge change in my professional life.

“This is where I met a professor from MIT who later invited me to join his team as a Fulbright scholar. There, I found my calling.”

Commissioner Georgieva took an interest in environmental policy. This led to a career working for the World Bank that lasted for nearly 20 years.

She arrived in 1993 as an environmental economist before rising to vice president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group in 2008.

During her time at the World Bank, Commissioner Georgieva also served as sector manager on Environment for the East Asia and Pacific Region, director in charge of World Bank environmental strategy, policies and lending, World Bank director for the Russian Federation and later, director for Sustainable Development.

She assumed her role as Commissioner in February 2010, a position she felt readily prepared for following her journey from Salzburg Global.

“I came back to be EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response so much [more] prepared for the job from all my work with the developing world and on climate change, one of the biggest risks to cause economic and humanitarian crises today.

“All in all, Salzburg defines who I am.”

Commissioner Georgieva said that attending the seminar helped her to understand the difficulties of finding solutions where competing parties had separate interests.

“Our session was a simulation of climate change negotiations. We in our attempts failed and so did the world later on, but we never should lose hope that when we talk to each other in an inclusive, open and democratic world [that] a pathway to solutions is possible.”

In her role as Commissioner, she has been fighting the hunger crisis in the Sahel and has helped coordinate the European Union’s relief contributions to Japan after the earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

“I have the best and the worst job in the European Commission. It is the best because what I do is to mobilize help for people affected by conflicts and disasters in their most difficult moments in life.

“It is also the worst because what I see is that fragility in the world is increasing, climate change leads to more devastating disasters and conflicts are becoming more complex, not less.”

In May 2013, in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Commissioner Georgieva visited refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, announcing the allocation of €65 million in humanitarian aid from the European Commission.

A month later, she returned to Salzburg Global to speak at the Board of Directors Weekend.

Commissioner Georgieva said: “It was an enormous honor to be invited to come back and speak on what has been the experience of the years since 1990 in my life, in a sense, to give back to the Salzburg Global Seminar what I got from it at the very beginning – a perspective of how the world can be a better place.”

She revealed to Salzburg Global that the seminar was an important platform for bringing people together with different perspectives, and the need for that platform has only increased.

“I strongly believe that Salzburg Global Seminar has taken on reflections on how the world is changing and it’s [in a] position to bring people together on the new issues that we all face from climate change adaptation to peace and security, from how the world evolves in terms of census of power to how we can help the most fragile countries cope with their fragility.”

In her role, Commissioner Georgieva outlined three objectives she wanted to see accomplished by the time her mandate ends.

She would like to see the European Union to continue leaning forward in the face of the most dramatic humanitarian emergencies, to work harder on preparedness and prevention and have legislation in the European Union for it.

She said: “With needs going up and resources not following it is absolutely crucial to reduce risks and that means understand where the risks are and help communities and countries to be better equipped to withstand recurring shocks.

“We are on our way to adopt a new legislation for civil protection of Europe for making Europe itself stronger in the face of climate change, in the face of more frequent and devastating disasters.”

Commissioner Georgieva defined the European Union as a global leader in the area of humanitarian aid.

“I see any place I go – from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, to the Central African Republic to Japan – dedicated Europeans who bring help and hope, who risk their lives to save the lives of others.

“In my activities, I’m determined to not only do more good but to get this good to be better known where it originates from in the European Union.”