Javier Solana. Ten years as Mr. Europe

Solanás term as EU High Representative comes to an end by the fall of 2009.   © Le Conseil de L´Union Européene

Solanás term as EU High Representative comes to an end by the fall of 2009. © Le Conseil de L´Union Européene

If You Want Peace, Prepare for War

Old Father Time has a twisted sense of humour. Forty years ago rebellious students marched against the establishment in the name of peace and a new world order, yet today those very same pacifists have become the antithesis of what they once fought for. What happened to those defiant scholars of the 1960s once the sun had set on the Age of Aquarius?

(The present article was originally published in Private inFlight Magazine 3/2009. The Magazine is distributed among  many air companies and business terminals. There is also a Russian edition.)

By Adrián Soto

Francisco Javier Solana de Madariaga, Ph.D. is a cosmopolitan man not only endowed with encyclopaedic knowledge and a conciliatory manner, but also an unwavering determination that has positioned him as one of the most respected and successful diplomats of modern times. At 67 years-old, Solana is a slender and rather diminutive man, who slightly resembles Sean Connery’s Franciscan friar in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film The Name of the Rose, but it is his cast-iron tenacity and inimitable authority that has helped to establish him as a significant figure in the chaotic world of global politics.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton counts Solana among her closest friends and he has also been a guest at Vladimir Putin’s private dacha. He is on excellent terms with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and he is able to congenially converse with both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the same day. Asked recently if he was conscious of the importance of his EU position, he simply answered: “It might sound ridiculous, but I have not stopped to think about it. For me this is just another job and I intend to do it as well as possible.”

Democratic Youth

Born in Madrid 1942 to a family of writers and scholars, Solana is the grand nephew of diplomat and writer Salvador de Madariaga, who was also the Spanish League of Nations disarmament chief and a European integrationist. Following studies at El Pilar College, an exclusive Catholic secondary school, Solana enrolled at Complutense University of Madrid where, at the age of 21, he was sanctioned and temporary ousted from the Physics Department for organising an opposition forum at the ‘Week of University Renovation’ – Spain’s universities were heavily oppressed by the rule of Francisco Franco in the 1960s. Solana’s older brother, Luis was eventually arrested and was sentenced to two years in prison; Luis is now retired after working a telecommunications company.

After graduating from Complutense, Solana spent a year furthering his studies at Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research and, during the same period, he became a member of the covert Spanish Socialist Party. In 1965 he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship that allowed him to continue his studies at a number of American universities, including the University of Chicago and the University of California in San Diego before eventually receiving his doctorate in Physics from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

It was a time of protest marches for peace and civil rights, rock music and ‘Make love, not war’ during Solana’s six years in America and he participated in the protests against the Vietnam War and became the President of the Association of Foreign Students. While Solana was absorbing the liberal values of the United States, Europe’s youth was radicalising, which was dramatically underlined in May 1968 when France experienced the largest general strike that has ever stopped the economy of an advanced industrial country.

After returning to Spain in 1971, Solana began teaching physics at the Autonomous University of Madrid, but one of Franco’s latest Education Ministers terminated his contract for political reasons. It wasn’t until 1975, following the death of the dictator, that Solana finally managed to obtain another science appointment and this time it was as Professor of Physics at his own alma mater, the Complutense University.

However, the return of democracy to Spain actually triggered the end of Solana’s academic life, with Solana, a member of the now-legal Socialist Workers’ Party, being elected as a Member of Parliament at the first parliamentary elections in 1977. After the Spanish Socialists won a landslide electoral victory in 1982 and party chief Felipe González became Prime Minister, Solana was appointed Minister of Culture where he remained until 1988 when until he moved to the Ministry of Education.

In 1992 Solana was promoted to Minister of Foreign Affairs, which was his first experience on the international scene. During 1995 he convened and chaired the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Conference that gave birth to the so-called “Barcelona Process” that managed to get the 27 nations presents to sign a “process to foster cultural and economic unity in the Mediterranean region”.

Military Boss

At the end of 1995, the General Secretary of NATO Willy Claes had to resign due to a bribery scandal that centred upon his actions in the Belgian cabinet in the 1980s. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair both brought the name of Solana to the table. However, Solana had once led many demonstrations against the military alliance and had even written a pamphlet called 50 Reasons to say no to NATO, but as a minister during a 1986 referendum he had altered his opinion and was in favour of membership.

When the President of the United States Bill Clinton travelled suddenly to Madrid, Solana’s liberal and Anglo-Saxon formation began to play a great role, although exactly what happened has never been published. When asked who first put forward his name as General Secretary of NATO, Solana diplomatically answered: “Well, I have always thought that was Clinton, but those things you never said loudly!”

Solana became the ninth NATO General Secretary on December 5, 1995 and his four years in the post were certainly memorable. He achieved one of his most significant triumphs in 1997 through the signing of an agreement with Russia that brought an end to the Cold War. However, two years later, NATO was preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary, but dark clouds were gathering over the Balkan Peninsula that would eventually break on March 24, 1999.

In the United States, Charles Osgood, the presenter of “CBS News Sunday Morning” appeared on screen and stated: “We interrupt this programme to bring you a very important announcement. Javier Solana, the General Secretary of NATO, has announced that the bombing of Yugoslavia might start within a very few hours.” For seven weeks NATO bombed Serbia and Montenegro with a destructive power five times more than all the bombs dropped on Germany during the Second World War II.

The war was never backed by the United Nations, but did have the support of many Western leaders, such as Britain’s Tony Blair, Germany’s Gerhard Schröder and France’s Jacques Chirac on the basis of “humanitarian reasons”. According to Solana’s inner circle the war on Yugoslavia was a very painful decision for him, “I have experienced some very bad moments. The worst have always been dealing with war situations; when I have had to negotiate in extreme conditions; when you try to stop the war machinery; because you know that the lives and suffering of many people depend upon you,” ruminated Solana, before continuing, “I have had some very bad moments in the Middle East – I been involved with Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians and Jordanians for so many years.”

Good Work

Late in 1999 Blair, Chirac and Schröder once again came for Solana and took him to the European Union to carry out the programs achieved by the Fifteen in Maestricht and Amsterdam – they needed an experienced man with fluent channels across the Atlantic. As EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Solana has earned the nickname ‘Mr. Europe’ and he has also been the head of the European Defence Agency since its foundation in 2004.

Defining the Mr. Europe role, Prime Minister of Luxemburg Jean-Claude Juncker said, “After Solana nothing will happen around the world on which Europe will not have a say.” Solana’s efforts to give one voice to Europe have not always been successful, especially after the American invasion of Iraq when eight Eastern European countries aligned themselves with Washington and not with Brussels – Paris and London were in different camp.

Solana’s faith in Europe is solid as a rock: “The European Union was an excellent idea that has become truth. Even more than ever, a European Union is absolutely necessary. The present financial crisis shows us that and, without the Euro as currency, Europeans could be suffering far more,” he said recently in an interview to the Spanish daily ABC.

Earlier this year Solana announced that he will leave the post of High Representative in mid-October 2009 when the ten year period comes to an end, so it seems as though the EU has tough work ahead to find a highly-qualified replacement for Mr. Europe.

Solana and Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia and Manuel Barroso President of the European Commission.  © Le Conseil de L´Union Européene

Solana and Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia and Manuel Barroso President of the European Commission. May, 2009 © Le Conseil de L´Union Européene

Business traveller

During the first six months of 2009, Javier Solana has flown 165,000 kilometres, accumulated over 231 hours of flight time and visited 23 countries. In 2008, he flew 310,000 kilometres, accrued 416 flying hours and visited 32 countries. Javier Solana is a person that sleeps very little and usually does not suffer from jet-lag. As a general rule, his trips are four or five days in length, so the effects of jet-lag are minimised by the fast return.

Notebooks

Since the beginning of his work as EU High Representative, Javier Solana has accumulated an astonishing amount of notebooks that he writes in with fine and elegant handwriting. He writes about the details of his meetings with world leaders and issues regarding matters of the mission. Usually, during the return trip, he transcribes the contents of the notebooks into his electronic agenda.

Bookworm

Javier Solana always carries a number of books with him. Naturally he reads a great deal about International Politics and about important contemporary issues, but fiction is also part of his booklist.

Aural delights

Javier Solana is fond of classical music and, when his schedule allows, he attends the Monnaie Opera in Brussels or Madrid’s Teatro Real. He is also a fan of new technologies, so he always has a digital audio player with him.

Simple pleasures

Javier Solana prefers light and simple food accompanied by a glass of good red wine. He undertakes as many sporting activities as possible, including yoga and swimming. One of his favourite activities in the summer is trekking in the mountains, although it is not easy to follow his rhythm.

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One Response to “Javier Solana. Ten years as Mr. Europe”

  1. Roosevelt Woody Says:

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