Kristalina Georgieva: A guitar-playing, environmental specialist

Dr Kristalina Georgieva is known for her efficiency and enthusiasm, and is well used to top international roles.
Dr Kristalina Georgieva is known for her efficiency and enthusiasm, and is well used to top international roles.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOFIA (Bulgaria) • Known for rolling up her sleeves, Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva has been lauded as the life of the party, and for her tenacity.

The guitar-playing environmental specialist, who was nominated last Friday as the European Union's candidate to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has not been in the media spotlight much, but is well used to top international roles.

Most recently tipped to lead the European Council, she lost that job to Belgium's Charles Michel last month, leaving her free to seek to succeed Ms Christine Lagarde as head of the IMF.

The World Bank's No. 2 since 2017, the energetic economist and highly regarded administrator twice secured top international jobs despite being her country's second pick.

One of them was when she became EU commissioner for aid and crisis management in 2010.

She was little known then, but, eagerly donning rubber boots or a bullet-proof vest, she soon became a popular figure for her efficiency and enthusiasm.

Standing out among the often grey Brussels bureaucrats, Dr Georgieva was not afraid to show emotion as she battled for funds, visited global hot spots and oversaw the EU's aid operations.

Standing out among the often grey Brussels bureaucrats, Dr Kristalina Georgieva was not afraid to show emotion as she battled for funds, visited global hot spots and oversaw the EU's huge aid operations.

In 2014, she became European Commission vice-president for budget and human resources.

"She is tenacious and will not give up when fighting for an issue she really cares about," said one Brussels diplomat.

Dr Georgieva is also known for her ability to persuade and get consensus.

In 2016, she was a surprise finalist in the election for the United Nations secretary-general's post, which in the end went to Portugal's Antonio Guterres.

Dr Georgieva was born on Aug 13, 1953, the year Soviet leader Josef Stalin died, behind the Iron Curtain in Sofia, capital of communist Bulgaria.

Her father Ivan was a road construction technician and mother Minka worked as a shop manager, ignoring her husband's advice not to work because of a heart condition.

Her mother, who died in 2014 aged 93, told local media that as a child, her daughter was "far too quiet" and always had her nose in a book from the moment she could read.

 

She came out of her shell later though. A university classmate, Mr Borislav Borisov, said Dr Georgieva was "the life and soul of the party, playing the guitar... everyone's favourite".

"She does not burn bridges, she builds them. A real diplomat," he said.

After a PhD in economic science, Dr Georgieva did stints at the London School of Economics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School, as well as taught in Fiji and Australia.

She has written more than 100 articles on environmental and economic policy and spent almost two decades at the World Bank.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 04, 2019, with the headline 'A guitar-playing, environmental specialist'. Print Edition | Subscribe