EU diplomacyEEAS High Representative

[Portrait] Javier Solana: diplomat, socialist, Atlanticist and European

(BRUSSELS2) A curious character than that of Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union.

Be careful of the first impression

A discreet man, one might believe him, at first glance, to be boring or pusillanimous. Contrary to this quick image, the man is tenacious and imbued with strong European convictions. But, in the position to which he was appointed in 1999 - High Representative of a European foreign policy, a policy which only exists on paper, and which most Member States have little intention of letting exist - he knows very well although if he wants to succeed in his bet – to provide Europe with a common foreign policy – ​​there is a price: discretion. So he travels and receives, with all his might. Virtually unknown in Brussels, despised in certain European capitals, he is nevertheless the image and voice of Europe elsewhere.

A phone in hand

In Iran, the Middle East, and Africa, Solana is undoubtedly one of the most renowned Europeans and whose word counts. We got to know this man with his in-depth knowledge of the files, and his never-missing touch of humor. Most heads of state or foreign ministers who stop in Brussels come to see him. Its special representatives that it has dispatched to the hottest spots on the globe allow it to have direct feedback of information and the possibility of acting, diplomatically, quickly.

It also has at its disposal the Sitcen – the information center – mini-intelligence agency of the European Union – and the Coreu – the European diplomatic network. Which makes him the best informed man in Europe about what is happening in the world. Make no mistake. If his public remarks can sometimes seem confused or indescribable, his silences, his interrupted sentences are sometimes symptomatic. He is a born diplomat. But also a Mediterranean. His smiles, his grimaces, his questions sometimes mean more than his words.

A family of diplomats

Born on July 14, 1942, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana de Madariaga comes from a well-known Spanish family. The political, diplomatic and European alchemy was, in a way, immersed in it from a very young age. His great-uncle Salvador de Madariaga was head of the disarmament section of the League of Nations, and was later ambassador to France and the United States. Opponent of the Franco regime, he took the path of exile towards London in 1936. In 1947 he participated in the Oxford manifesto on liberalism and was one of the founders of the College of Europe in Bruges. Javier Solana's older brother is also opposed to the Franco regime and will be imprisoned for his political activities.

A youth made of opposition

At the age of 22, in 1964, Javier also clandestinely joined the Spanish Socialist Party, which was then illegal. Like his father, a chemist, he followed the scientific path with a degree in physicist and studies in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. But he remains committed: across the Atlantic, he is notably president of the foreign students association and participates in protests against the war in Vietnam. In 1976, he was appointed federal secretary of the new socialist party. He served as a deputy for Madrid from 1977 to December 1995.


Close to Felipe Gonzalez, Javier Solana naturally joined his cabinet after the historic victory of the PSOE in 1982. He remained there for almost 13 years, a longevity record. Minister of Culture, then Minister of Education in 1988, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1992. In 1995, Spain presided over the European Union. And Solana brings to the baptismal font the Barcelona process, the objective of which is to better anchor and associate the Mediterranean States with Europe. In December 1995, he was appointed Secretary General of NATO, replacing the Belgian Willy Claes. Logical evolution for the man as for the party of which he remains a member. From being an opponent of NATO, both have become strong supporters of a “reasonable” Atlanticism.

Head of the Atlantic Alliance

At the head of NATO, Solana must first implement the “Dayton” peace plan in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the deployment of a force (IFOR) of 60.000 men in the former Yugoslav republic torn apart by several years of war. Mission then transformed into a stabilization mission (SFOR) keeping more than 30.000 men on the ground. Under his leadership, NATO refines its strategy, integrates its members – France, partially, Spain, completely, joins the military structure – negotiates agreements, particularly with the former enemy Russia – this is the birth of the Council NATO-Russia. In 1999, NATO intervened militarily again in the Balkans, this time directly in Serbia to stop the intervention of police forces and the army in Kosovo. Intervention crowned with success militarily and politically (with a little Russian help which abandons its Serbian ally). The Serbian province with an Albanian majority will then be placed under international administration, with security provided by NATO (KFOR).

First head of European diplomacy

In the meantime, Solana has moved on to other horizons, still in Brussels but in the European Union. The Fifteen 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 chief diplomat of the EU. The position he took up on October 18, 1999. The Treaty of Nice added another role, that of Secretary General of the Council. This allows Solana to have the administrative and financial means for the ambitions set out by European heads of state and government. His discretion pleases. He was renewed in July 2004 for a second five-year term.

During these years, he was notably involved in the search for a solution in the Middle East and in the dialogue initiated with Iran by several countries (France, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, United States). Around twenty civil and military operations are deployed on three continents under the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). And the European Union has gradually emerged as a “serious” player for “good offices” missions. The latest, important symbolically and politically, being the armed conflict of August 2008 between Georgia and Russia.

His mandate ends on October 31, 2009. But he will not bear the title of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the EU, created by the European Constitution, and which he had dreamed of...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: [Interview] The time when a country could solve crises alone is over (Javier Solana)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).