Views on BG | July 17, 2001, Tuesday // 00:00

Financial Times; Jul 17, 2001

Romano Prodi, boss of the European Commission, is sometimes a bit too quick off the mark. He was among the first to send a congratulatory telegram to Bulgaria`s former king, Simeon II, after his party won the recent general election. Instead of addressing the note to the prime minister designate, however, Prodi called him `prime minister`. Prodi can be forgiven for the confusion, given Simeon`s many titles. Most of his colleagues still call him `Your Majesty`, while `Mr Saxe-Coburg` is another favourite.

Simeon, who left Bulgaria as a child in 1946 after the Communists abolished the monarchy, never renounced the throne. Now he is the first ex-monarch to gain political power in eastern Europe after the collapse of communism.
He is busy assembling a cabinet as he waits for his appointment to be ratified by parliament this week. Most interest is centred on the future finance minister, given that most salaries are very low and unemployment is at 18 per cent.
The frontrunner is Milen Veltchev, who, until February, was vice-president for emerging markets at Merrill Lynch in London.
The untainted past of many of Simeon`s newly elected ministers has been part of his party`s appeal. Veltchev recently admitted that his only political experience so far had been `office politics` at Merrill Lynch.

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