Born in 1952, Bokova studied at the prestigious Moscow Institute of International Relations at a time when Bulgaria was closely allied with the Soviet Union.

Learning to speak Russian, English, French and Spanish, Bokova graduated in 1976 and immediately joined Bulgaria's ministry for foreign affairs, attaining her first UN job in 1982.

In 1996, she contested unsuccessfully for the vice-presidency.

Five years later, Bokova returned to the highest levels of politics when she became vice-president for a string of committes including foreign affairs, defence and security.

She was also part of the team that negotiated Bulgaria's entry into the EU and Nato - after which she was made vice-president of the Harvard Club of Bulgaria.

The author of several books on ethnic tensions in Bulgaria and the Balkans, Bokova left parliament for an ambassador's role in Paris in 2005. Bokova has also written an Eastern European vision for EU expansion.