Champagne and Global Lobbying in Bokova’s Campaign

Publications in support of the candidacy of Bulgarian Irina Bokova to head the UN proved to be associated with expensive PR agency

On January 16, the famous for its wine French region of Champagne traditionally honored St. Vincent – patron saint of vine growers, wine and winemakers. This year’s celebrations were held under the patronage of UNESCO and its Director-General Irina Bokova was honorary guest. The reason – in 2015, the French champagne was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

The Director General of the Champagne Committee (CIVC, since last year is Vincent Perrin. He is a senior French official, a graduate of the most prestigious school for government officials, ENA (Ecole Nationale de L’Administration – National School of Administration). He has held high-ranking posts in the French administration; he was a ministerial adviser and representative of the OCDE in Beijing. The inclusion of champagne in the World Heritage List is largely attributed to the initiative of the Committee that represents champagne not only as a symbol of France, but also a serious industry worth 4.5 billion euro, of which 2.4 for export. Mr. Perrin was bestowed the honor to accompany Irina Bokova at the festival in Reims, the capital of Champagne.

In addition to his State career, Vincent Perrin is a member of the executive board of the think tank The Bridge Tank. The President of The Bridge Tank is economist Joël Ruet, who is a specialist in emerging economies. According to him, the organization’s mission is to connect critical voices and influential ideas with projects in emerging economies.

For several months now, Mr Ruet is offering analyses and ideas not quite in the domain of his expertise, but as an open lobbyist for the candidacy of Irina Bokova (see here and here)

Mr. Ruet did not respond to an inquiry of Bivol, asking what triggered his interest in the topic of choosing a new chief of the United Nations (UN) and what this has to do with emerging markets. The answer is probably related to another figure in The Bridge Tank.

Emerging PR markets

Co-founder, along with Joël Ruet, and member of the Executive Board of The Bridge Tank is Thomas Eymond-Laritaz, who is also executive director for relations with government in one of the world’s largest PR groups – APCO Worldwide. The agency specializes in corporate and government PR and its services do not come cheap.

According to the APCO site, Thomas Eymond-Laritas has advised former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and former Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Cobourg.

Former Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Cobourg and his Foreign Minister Solomon Passy are among the most prominent promoters of Irina Bokova’s candidacy and are openly calling for her nomination as the candidate of Bulgaria. In his arguments, Passy refers to publications in the international press praising Bokova. The connection with APCO, however, suggests that these publications are not entirely spontaneous.

The fact that one of the authors, who writes actively in favor of Bokova in a blog in the Financial Times, was an official associate of APCO Worldwide, at least until 2012, is a confirmation of the above.

Englishman David Clark fervently declares his support from the blog platform BeyondBricks of the prestigious publication. Incidentally, BeyondBricks is also involved in emerging markets. Another coincidence – like his fellow author Joël Ruet, Clark writes not so much on the subject of emerging markets, as he does on the candidacy of Irina Bokova. Clark has joined the blog in April 2015 and has so far written altogether eight articles, three of them on the future choice of the UN chief and Bokova’s role (see here, here and here).

The last publication of Clark is dated February 5 and it presents exactly the same “talking points” that are used in Bulgaria by Solomon Passy and other supporters of Bokova’s candidacy, mainly former communists, now-turned socialists, and former agents and collaborators of the Communist secret services, insisting that Bulgaria will miss its “hour of stardom” if it fails to nominate Bokova.

Clark, who was an adviser to former British Labour Party Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, is a known media commentator in Britain. However, he avoids declaring his relationship with the PR agency APCO Worldwide as this puts him rather in the category of lobbyists, not in the category of independent analysts.

What has sparked David Clark’s interest in the topic? The email sent to the NGO The Russia Foundation, on whose behalf Clark signs his articles in the FT blog, remained unanswered.

Approached for comment, Thomas Eymond-Laritaz also failed respond to a question of Bivol whether he personally or the agency APCO have any relation to Irina Bokova’s nomination.

Bivol also sent questions to UNESCO’s press office asking whether the organization had PR contracts with APCO Worldwide and The Bridge Tank.

The Head of the UNESCO Press Office, George Papagiannis, replied tersely that he had no idea in what connection this question was asked.

The idea, emerging after tracking the links to APCO, is not complicated. Bokova’s well-oiled and coordinated media campaign is a fact. And the probability that all mentioned authors are laboring for free and in synchrony for Bulgaria’s benefit is near the absolute zero.

So who is paying? This issue will linger even after (if) the candidate of the Communist nomenclature and of the Kremlin pops the cork for the nomination she expects, along with the issue of the origin of the money for her two apartments in Manhattan, whose ownership was revealed by Bivol.

Updated: A reader of Bivol alerted us about another publication glorifying Bokova by an author who is linked to APCO – an article in The Hill, signed by Anita B. McBride. In her introduction, the author modestly omitted to point out that she is working for APCO Worldwide.

In response to a stipulating question, the Head of the UNESCO Press Office, George Papagiannis, stated the following: “Dear Sir, We have no record of any contractual engagement between UNESCO and the two entities you mention in this email”.





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