A diplomat, Socialist, Atlanticist and European
By Nicolas Gros-Verheyde | Thursday 19 March 2009
Born on 14 July 1942, High Representative Javier Solana de Madariaga came from a well-known Spanish family. He was bathed in an alchemy of politics, diplomacy and European affairs from a tender age. His great uncle, Salvador de Madariaga, was head of the disarmament section of the League of Nations and then became an ambassador in France and the United States. An opponent of the Franco regime, he went into exile in London, in 1936. In 1947, he was involved in the Oxford Manifesto on liberalism and was one of the founders of the College of Europe in Bruges. Javier Solana’s elder brother was also opposed to the Franco regime and was imprisoned for his political activities.
In 1964, aged 22, Javier Solana secretly joined the Spanish Socialist Party, which was illegal. Like his chemist father, he followed a scientific path graduating in physics and studying in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. But he remained politically active: on the other side of the Atlantic, he was president of the association of foreign students and took part in anti-Vietnam war protests. In 1976, he was named federal secretary of the new Socialist Party. He represented Madrid from 1977 until December 1995.
A close friend of Felipe Gonzalez, Javier Solana joined his cabinet after the historic victory for the PSOE, in 1982. He stayed there almost 13 years, a record length. He was minister of culture, then, in 1988, minister of education, becoming minister of foreign affairs, in 1992. In 1995, Spain held the European Union Presidency. Solana played a leading role in the Barcelona Process, whose aim is to strengthen relations between Mediterranean countries and Europe. In December 1995, he was appointed secretary-general of NATO, replacing Belgium’s Willy Claes. A logical move for the man as well as for the party of which he was still a member. Pitting himself against NATO, both became strong supporters of ‘reasonable’ Atlanticism.
As the head of NATO, Solana first had to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina by deploying a force (IFOR) of 60,000 men in the former republic of Yugoslavia, which had been torn apart by several years of war. The mission was later turned into a stabilisation mission (SFOR), keeping more than 30,000 men on the ground. Spurred on by him, NATO refined its strategy, integrated its members - France, partly, and Spain, completely, join the military structure – and negotiated agreements, particularly with the former Russian enemy, which gave birth to the NATO-Russia Council. In 1999, NATO intervened militarily in the Balkans again, this time directly in Serbia in order to stop the Kosovo police force and army. It was a successful intervention, militarily and politically (with a little help from Russia, which abandoned its Serbian ally). The majority Albanian Serb province was to be placed under international administration, security being guaranteed by NATO (KFOR).
In the meantime, Solana set his sights on new goals, still in Brussels but at the European Union. The 15-member EU agreed at the Cologne summit, in July 1999, to appoint the Spanish Socialist to a new position created by the Treaty of Amsterdam, that of the EU’s chief diplomat, a hat that he wore for the first time on 18 October 1999. The Treaty of Nice gave him another role, that of secretary-general of the Council, which allowed Solana to use administrative and financial means for the ambitions outlined by the European heads of state and government. His discretion went down well. His position was renewed in July 2004 for a second five-year term. During these years, he has been involved in particular in seeking a solution for the Middle East and in the talks started between Iran and several countries (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States). About 20 civilian and military operations were launched on three continents in the name of the European Security and Defence Policy. And the European Union gradually emerged as a ‘serious’ player for ‘good offices’ missions. The latest to date was the armed conflict, in August 2008, between Georgia and Russia, which was of symbolic and political importance. Javier Solana’s term ends on 31 October 2009. But he will not bear the title of the EU’s minister of foreign affairs, created by the European Constitution, which he had dreamed of. Finding a suitable successor for the next five years will not be an easy task.