Meglena Kuneva

First European Commissioner from Bulgaria
She is an incredibly inspiring role model – Her determination has paved the way for women to be treated as equals

Meglena Kuneva entered Bulgarian politics in 2001 and has not looked back, moving only forwards to achieve her many singular goals. Since 2002, she has been Bulgaria's European Affairs Minister, and she made a historical entrance into the European Union as the Chief Negotiator for Bulgaria on EU accession. As such therefore, she was instrumental in delivering change in Bulgaria to meet the requirements of European Membership. Upon Bulgaria's entry in the EU in 2007, Meglena became the country's first European Commissioner, taking care of the consumer rights portfolio. Currently she is Adviser to Siim Kallas, EC Vice-President and European Commissioner for Transport, on passenger rights.

Meglena says, “I am a woman in a profession that despite improvements in the last decades is still dominated by male politicians. What's more in 2011, I was the only woman presidential candidate in Bulgaria. I ran this presidential campaign with only a small team and I did not rely on any party structure. Yet I and the small team of dedicated women and men achieved wonderful results. Half a million Bulgarian voters voted for a woman to become Supreme commander of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. I think this is a small leap towards clearing politics and government from stereotypes!”

Meglena’s far-reaching contributions to society have been formally recognised across the EU, and she has received numerous accolades throughout her career. These are : The Order of Civil Merits, Spain (2002), the Order of the Legion of Honor from France (2004), the Order  of Prince Enrique, Portugal (2003) and the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity (2005), to name a few. Additionally in 2008, Meglena was voted European of the Year by the readers of European Voice, and Commissioner of the Year, by a high-level panel for the European Agenda monthly magazine.

Meglena has particular aspirations for women in today’s world. She says, “I wish that as in any other sphere of life a woman in politics would not be a woman in man's profession, but a person who is able to compete on equal grounds with equally with others. And may the most suitable win.”

In a recent interview, Meglena was asked the following question: A lot of women look up to you at a role model, what would you inspire them to believe in? This was her response: They should believe in themselves. I met hundreds of inspiring women throughout Bulgaria, and those who have succeeded really believed in themselves. This is the secret of success. I think that if we had more successful business women and politicians, Bulgarian women would be encourage and more confident to pursue a career.”

Relevant Information:

There is a unique feature of Bulgarian women. They consider their professional experience as a way of social realization, economic independence and self-esteem.

Surveys show that although half of Bulgarian men assume the occupation of housewife as sufficiently valuable, ¾ of women would prefer to work and to be economically active even if they were totally materially satisfied. There are 220 000 SMEs in Bulgaria which represent 99.1% of all companies in the country. SMEs are the fastest growing sector in the Bulgarian economy. According to recent data there are more than 60 000 women entrepreneurs and managers in Bulgaria, most of them of small and medium-sized enterprises. In total, of the number of newly established companies over a quarter are owned by women. In addition, a number of firms whose owners are male are run by their female partners.

Current Good Practices for Attaining Equity for Women in the Bulgarian Labour Market:

  1. Promoting success and innovation among women entrepreneurs at domestic and international level. To encourage women entrepreneurs, and to increase the awareness of the society, the first independent women’s weekly journal, Nie Zhenite” (We Women), initiated the organization of business women award ceremony “The Business Woman of the Year”, held annually since 1991.
  2. Family Centres for Children This project’s objective, is to encourage the employment of unemployed women in family centres for children and ensure the compatibility between the professional and personal life of women.