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EU's Gabriel gets mandate to form Bulgaria's new cabinet

FILE PHOTO: European Commission launches expert group on disinformation and digital literacy, in Brussels

SOFIA (Reuters) - European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, a member of Bulgaria's centre-right GERB party, received a mandate on Monday to form a new cabinet following last month's elections.

President Rumen Radev met Gabriel, who is European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, to give her the mandate. She will have seven days to see if she can get enough support to break Bulgaria's political deadlock.

In elections on April 2, Gabriel's GERB party came first, winning 69 seats in the 240-seat parliament, putting it in pole position to form a government if it can find coalition partners.

A pro-Western reformist bloc led by We Continue the Change (PP) won 64 seats.

On Sunday, Gabriel said she would propose a government with a one-year term.

Following the last election in October 2022, the GERB party also came out ahead but was unable to form a coalition.

Political deadlock over the past two years has forced Bulgaria to delay its target date for adopting the euro, and it has yet to approve a budget bill for 2023.

The uncertainty has also hampered Bulgaria's ability to harness EU post-pandemic recovery funds, and analysts and voters fear a messy outcome could lead to yet another election being held later this year.

In a statement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked Gabriel for her service and said that Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager and Vice President Margaritis Schinas would be responsible for her portfolio.

Vestager will be in charge of innovation and research, while Schinas will take over education, culture and youth.

(Reporting by Stoyan Nenov and Ivana Sekularac, additional reporting by Charlotte van Campenhout from Brussels; Editing by Christina Fincher and Bernadette Baum)