Josep Borrell: Diplomat with a lot of experience

Josep Borrell

Europe needs to be better explained to people, Spanish Socialist Josep Borrell said before the EU election.

(Photo: AFP)

MadridJosep Borrell had already withdrawn from the first line of politics. But then in 2017, the independence conflict between Catalonia and the Spanish government in Madrid was high, and the Catalan born again mounted the podium: In numerous demonstrations in the northern Spanish region defended the 72-year-old speaker as the unity of the country.

With his thoughtful arguments and his calm nature in the heated conflict, he caused a lot of attention. When incumbent Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won the no-confidence vote last summer against then-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, he made Borrell Spanish Foreign Minister. The shrewd politician was back on the big stage.

“Borrell is a thinker. He does not need the public, but came back into politics out of a sense of responsibility, “says Spanish political scientist Fernando Vallespín. Maybe that is why Borrell is now moving back to Brussels. It would be better to explain Europe to the people and explain to them how important the EU is, said the Socialist in a small group a few weeks before the EU election.

It is not the first top job in the EU for the skilled aerospace engineer and post-doctoral economist. From 2004 to 2007 he was President of the European Parliament. Later, Borrell, who also holds a master's degree from the elite Stanford University and the Institut Francais du Pétrole and is a professor of business mathematics, led the European University Institute in Florence.

In Spain, he is considered a representative of the old class of politicians who have a lot of charisma. Even members of other parties talk about him with great respect. Thus, a high-ranking representative of the right-wing Ciudadanos justifies his party's rejection of the Spanish socialists by stating that there are hardly any more people today from the beat of Josep Borrell.

Not only did Borrell work in politics, but he also headed the computer systems department for the Spanish oil company Cepsa for seven years. He became acquainted with his first wife while working in an Israeli kibbutz. In 1975, he joined the Spanish socialists and became Transport and Environment Minister under Felipe González in the early 1990s.

“Josep Borrell will certainly fill the office of the EU foreign affairs chief with more life than the previous incumbent,” expects political scientist Vallespín. “He will try to upgrade it.” The previous representative, the Italian Federica Mogherini was considered pale. Borrell's task in the future will be to develop and communicate the common position of the EU members towards their partners.

In the European elections Borrell was the number one on the list of Spanish socialists. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has always emphasized that his country must be given the top job award because Spain has been under-represented in the EU for years. He had campaigned for the socialist, Dutch candidate Frans Timmermanns as EU Commission President. After he had not received the post, Borrell was as High Representative on the hand. However, it is the top job that secures Spain's least influence within the EU.

More: Von der Leyen is to become head of the EU Commission, Lagarde ECB President. Find out more about the EU staff package here.

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