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Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Prime Minister of Bulgaria

(Financial Times - 30/07/01; RFE/RL - 25/07/01; BBC - 18/07/01)
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Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born in 1937, the son of Bulgarian King Boris III (House of Saxe-Coburg) and Queen Joanna (former Princess Giovanna of Italy, House of Savoy). When King Boris mysteriously died shortly after a meeting with Adolf Hitler, Simeon succeeded his father at age 6. Young Simeon ruled for three years under the tutelage of a three-member council of regency until the Soviet coup of 1944, which resulted in the murder of his regents, including his uncle and much of the country’s intelligentsia. Two years later, a referendum, which many believe was rigged, forced the king and his mother to leave the country. They first fled to Egypt before settling in Spain, where they were granted asylum. Simeon attended the Lycee Francais in Madrid and the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania in the United States. He has also completed a 3-year course in business administration and law.

The former king has spent most of his adult life working as a businessman in Spain and the U.S. For 13 years he served as chairman of the Spanish subsidiary of Thomson, a French defence and electronics group. He has worked as an advisor for several firms in Europe and Africa, specializing in the banking, hotel, electronics, and catering sectors.

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Simeon took pains to maintain his cultural heritage. He belongs to the Orthodox Christian Church and still speaks fluent Bulgarian, albeit a slightly outdated version, owing to decades of exile. Upon returning to his homeland in 1996, Simeon was greeted by thousands of Bulgarians, cheering: “We want our King!

It took his newly-formed political organisation, National Movement Simeon II, only three months to rout the incumbent Union of Democratic Forces and its perennial arch-rival, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, in the country’s 24 July 2001 parliamentary election. After some initial uncertainty, Simeon eventually accepted the position of prime minister. In coalition with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, he has assembled a cabinet composed mainly of technocrats and Western-educated economic specialists. “The main priorities of this [coalition] agreement are accession to and full membership in the European Union and NATO, a decisive fight against corruption, and rapid and sustainable growth,” Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said in his address to parliament.

Simeon is married to Spanish aristocrat Dona Margarita Gomez-Acebo y Cejuela. They have five children.

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