|Vice-President of the European Commission|
|Assumed office |
1 December 2019
|President||Ursula von der Leyen|
|Preceded by||Federica Mogherini|
|High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy|
|Assumed office |
1 December 2019
|Preceded by||Federica Mogherini|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation|
7 June 2018 – 30 November 2019
|Prime Minister||Pedro Sánchez|
|Preceded by||Alfonso Dastis|
(Foreign Affairs and Cooperation)
|Succeeded by||Margarita Robles|
|President of the European Parliament|
20 July 2004 – 16 January 2007
|Preceded by||Pat Cox|
|Succeeded by||Hans-Gert Pöttering|
|Minister of Public Works and Environment|
12 March 1991 – 6 May 1996
|Prime Minister||Felipe González|
|Preceded by||Javier Sáenz de Cosculluela|
|Succeeded by||Rafael Arias-Salgado|
|Leader of the Opposition|
26 May 1998 – 14 May 1999
|Prime Minister||José María Aznar|
|Preceded by||Joaquín Almunia|
|Succeeded by||Joaquín Almunia|
|Member of the European Parliament|
13 June 2004 – 7 June 2009
|Member of the Congress of Deputies|
15 July 1986 – 2 April 2004
Josep Borrell Fontelles
24 April 1947
La Pobla de Segur, Spain
Argentine (since 2019)
|Political party||Spanish Socialist Workers' Party|
|Party of European Socialists|
Carolina Mayeur (div.)
|Education||Technical University of Madrid|
French Institute of Petroleum
Josep Borrell Fontelles (Catalan: [ʒuˈzɛb boˈreʎ fonˈteʎəs]; born 24 April 1947) is a Spanish politician serving as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy since 1 December 2019. A member of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), he served as President of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2007 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in the Government of Spain from 2018 to 2019.
Born and raised in the Catalan village of La Pobla de Segur, Borrell, aeronautical engineer and economist by training as well as professor of mathematics. He entered politics in the 1970s as a member of the PSOE Spain's transition to democracy, and went on to serve in several prominent positions during the governments of Felipe González, first within the Ministry of Economy and Finance as General Secretary for the Budget and Public Spending (1982–1984) and Secretary of State for Finance (1984–1991), then joining the Council of Ministers as Minister of Public Works and Transport (1991–1996). In the opposition after the 1996 election, Borrell unexpectedly won the PSOE primary in 1998 and became Leader of the Opposition and the designated prime ministerial candidate of the party until resigning in 1999. He then relocated to European politics, becoming an MEP during the 2004–2009 legislative period and serving as President of the European Parliament for the first half of the term.
He returned to the Spanish Council of Ministers in June 2018, when he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation in the Sánchez government. In July 2019, Borrell was announced as the European Council's nominee to be appointed as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He took office in December 2019.
Josep (or José)[n. 1] Borrell Fontelles was born on 24 April 1947 in the village of La Pobla de Segur, province of Lleida, near the Pyrenees, son of Joan Borrell (father) and Luisa Fontelles Doll (mother). He also grew up in the village, where his father owned a small bakery. His paternal grandparents were Catalan migrants to Argentina. They ran a bakery in the city of Mendoza, close to the General San Martín Park. They returned to Spain when Joan Borrell, Josep's father, was eight years old. Borrell's father arrived in Spain just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and afterwards he would never leave his village of La Pobla de Segur.
After completing primary education, the remote location of his village led Josep Borrell to be home-schooled with aid from his mother and a retired teacher, taking the official Baccalaureate exams at the Lleida high school. He continued his higher education thanks to several scholarships, including from the March Foundation and the Fulbright Program. In 1964 he moved to Barcelona to study industrial engineering, but left after a year in 1965 to study aeronautical engineering at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), graduating in 1969. In the summer of 1969 Borrell worked as volunteer at the Gal On kibbutz in Israel, where he met his future French wife Caroline Mayeur, from whom he is now divorced. During this time he also began to study a bachelor's degree and later a PhD in economics at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Borrell also holds a master's degree in applied mathematics (operations research) from Stanford University in Palo Alto (California, US), and a postgraduate in energy economics from the French Institute of Petroleum in Paris (France). In May 1976 Borrell defended his PhD thesis in economics at the UCM.
From 1972 to 1982 he lectured in mathematics at the Higher Technical School of Aeronautical Engineering of the UPM. In 1982 he was appointed associate professor of Business Mathematics at the University of Valladolid. From 1975 to 1982 he also worked for Cepsa, employed at the company's Department of Systems and Information Engineering; he combined this activity with the teaching of university classes and involvement in local politics.
Borrell joined the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in 1975 and started his political activity during Spain's transition to democracy in the Socialist Grouping of Madrid along with Luis Solana and Luis Carlos Croissier. He ran for office as the number 5 in the PSOE list for the 1979 municipal election in Majadahonda, becoming city councillor. Borrell also became a member of the 1979–1983 corporation of the Provincial Deputation of Madrid and managed the Financial Department of the provincial government body in the pre-autonomic period.
In the 1982 general election the PSOE won a landslide victory, returning the socialists to power for the first time since the years of the Second Republic. Under Prime Minister Felipe González, Borrell was appointed to several prominent positions within the Ministry of Economy and Finance, first as General Secretary for the Budget and Public Spending (1982–1984), and then as Secretary of State for Finance (1984–1991). During his tenure as Secretary of State for Finance, Spain joined the European Economic Community in 1986. He became known for his actions seeking to combat fraud and tax evasion, going after the rich and famous, including celebrities such as Lola Flores, Marujita Díaz or Pedro Ruiz. In the 1986 general election he was for the first time elected to the Congress of Deputies, remaining as an MP representing Barcelona until 2004.
He took a role in the process of liberalization of telecommunications in Spain, promoting the 1991–2001 National Plan of Telecommunications (PNT); in 1993, Borrell threatened nonetheless the European Commission with blocking the liberalization unless the concession of a moratory Spain was given, as Borrell deemed imperative to achieve first the universalization of service before the complete liberalization.
Following the 1993 general election, Borrell continued with a seat at the Council of Ministers, assuming the portfolio of Minister of Public Works, Transports and Environment in the last government presided by Felipe González. He left the office after the arrival to power of the People's Party in 1996, remaining as an MP for Barcelona in the Spanish Congress.
In 1998 Borrell decided to run against the PSOE's then party leader Joaquín Almunia in the first national primary election ever held in the PSOE since the Second Republic, intended to determine who the party would nominate as its prime ministerial candidate vis-à-vis the 2000 general election. Borrell ran as the underdog, campaigning as the candidate of the socialist base against the party establishment, and surprisingly won the voting, commanding 114,254 of the member's votes (54.99%), versus the 92,860 (44.67%) obtained by Almunia. Thus began an uneasy relationship and power-sharing—the "bicefalia" (duumvirate)—between the official party leader, Almunia, and the prime ministerial candidate elected by the members in the primaries, Borrell. However, in May 1999, a fraud investigation was launched into two officials who, several years earlier, Borrell had appointed to senior posts in the finance ministry. Though not involved in the inquiry into property purchases, Borrell resigned from the role of Prime Ministerial candidate, stating that he did not want the affair to damage his party's chances in the upcoming local and general elections.
Amid the sixth term of the Cortes Generales, Borrell was elected to chair the Joint Congress-Senate Committee for the European Union in October 1999, replacing Pedro Solbes. Reelected as MP for Barcelona in the 2000 general election, Borrell repeated as president of the Joint Committee for the European Union for the full 7th parliamentary term. Then, in 2001, Borrell was also appointed the Spanish parliament's representative on the Convention on the Future of Europe. In 2011 he was awarded Spain's medal of the Order of Constitutional Merit in recognition of his participation in this convention, which drafted the European Constitution that eventually led to the Treaty of Lisbon. During his time at the convention, he unsuccessfully pushed for a mention to a "federal model" in the draft, as well as he advocated for the explicit mention of the equality between women and men. A laicist, he also opposed then the inclusion of the notion of a "Christian heritage" in the text.
In 2004, prime minister and PSOE's leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero proposed Borrell to lead the Socialist Ticket in the 2004 European elections. The PSOE won the elections with 6,6 million votes (43,30%), obtaining 25 MEP seats, although turnout was relatively low at 46%. Borrell sat with the Party of European Socialists (PES) group, and served as leader of the Spanish delegation.
In July 2004 Borrell was elected President of the European Parliament, as a result of an agreement between the EPP and the Socialists, becoming the third Spaniard to hold this position after Enrique Barón and José María Gil-Robles. In the presidential vote, out of 700 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) he received an absolute majority with 388 votes at the first ballot. The other two candidates were the Polish Liberal Bronisław Geremek (208 votes) and the French communist Francis Wurtz (51 votes). He was the first newly elected MEP to hold the post since direct elections were held in 1979. As part of a deal with the conservative faction in the parliament, the EPP, he was succeeded as president of the parliament by the German conservative politician Hans-Gert Pöttering in the second part of the five-year term.
In his capacity as president, Borrell also chaired the Parliament's temporary committee on policy challenges and budgetary means of the enlarged Union 2007–2013. From 2007 until leaving the Parliament in 2009, he served as chairman of the Committee on Development. In addition to his committee assignments, he was a member of the Parliament's delegation to the ACP–EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
Borrell was nominated president of the European University Institute on 12 December 2008, and assumed this position in January 2010. In 2012, he was forced to resign in the face of allegations of a conflict of interest.
In 2012, the University of Lleida appointed Borrell to a professorship of competition and regional development sponsored by energy company Repsol. He also held the Jean Monnet Chair at the Institute of International Studies at Complutense University of Madrid.
Borrell collaborated along other prominent PSOE figures such as Cristina Narbona, José Félix Tezanos and Manuel Escudero in the making of Somos socialistas. Por una nueva socialdemocracia ("We are socialists. For a new social-democracy"), a manifesto in support of Pedro Sánchez's successful bid to the leadership of the PSOE in the May 2017 PSOE primary election prior to the 39th Federal Congress of the party.
He also stood out as one of the most outspoken opponents of Catalan secessionism. Borrell co-authored Las cuentas y los cuentos de la independencia ("The calculations and tales behind independence"), a 2015 essay that vowed to dismantle the economic arguments laid out by the pro-independence movement. He also took a leading role in a mass rally defending the unity of Spain held in Barcelona on 8 October 2017, in which Borrell gave an impassionated speech demanding "not to bring up more frontiers" while displaying a European Union flag that he called "our estelada" (starred flag), bringing him back to the media first line. He also took part on a second mass rally on 29 October 2017 under the slogan "We are all Catalonia". In one of his polemic speeches he said that "before any wound can be closed, it must be disinfected" suggesting that pro-independence Catalans are comparable to bacteria or filth.
Following the 2018 successful motion of no confidence on Mariano Rajoy and subsequent investiture of Pedro Sánchez as new prime minister, Borrell was announced on 5 June as Sánchez's choice for the post of foreign minister in his new government. 22 years after the end of his last tenure as member of the Government of Spain, Borrell assumed the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation on 7 June along the rest of the new cabinet in La Zarzuela. The new ministry relocated some of the high-rank officials appointed by the government of Mariano Rajoy with a diplomatic background to ambassadorial posts, including secretaries of State and, most notably, the former foreign minister (Alfonso Dastis) and the prime minister's chief of staff (Jorge Moragas).
Borrell decided to reformulate the High Commissioner for the 'Marca España' (Spain Brand), a one-person body functionally dependent directly on the presidency of the Government but organically included within the Foreign Office structure) to the post of Secretary of State for Global Spain. The officeholder responsible for the 'Marca España' appointed by Rajoy, Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros y Bernaldo de Quirós, was replaced by Irene Lozano.
In June 2018 Borrell and King Felipe VI made an official visit to the US. Borrell had a meeting with Mike Pompeo, where the Spanish delegation showed concern for the US protectionist drift and discrepancies between the two countries were found in regards to their approach to migration policies.
In September 2018 the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) settled a disciplinary action against Borrell opened in 2017 due to the later's insider trading in the sale of stocks of Abengoa (whose board of directors Borrell was a member of) in November 2015, sanctioning him with a fine of 30,000€.[n. 2]
Regarding the negotiations with the United Kingdom on Gibraltar in the context of Brexit, Borrell avowed to prioritise improvement of the living conditions in the neighbouring Campo de Gibraltar (he had reportedly considered the reality of the "3rd territory with the highest GDP per capita in the World"—Gibraltar—surrounded by "a flatland of underdevelopment"—the Campo de Gibraltar—as something unacceptable). In the other hand, he renounced to include the longstanding bid for sovereignty as an element of the negotiations. He highlighted this soft approach was the same stance as his predecessor, Dastis, outlining a continuity in the negotiations with the former government, with the ministry keeping the same negotiating team before and after the government change. In November 2018 he signed the four MoUs negotiated with the United Kingdom settling aspects of the future relationship with the British Overseas Territory.
Given the aggravation of the political crisis in Nicaragua, in December 2018 Borrell pressed the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, for an EU-wide involvement in the situation.
In May 2019 the Spanish Embassy in Caracas lodged Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo López as guest following the Venezuelan uprising, as the later had been freed from domiciliary imprisonment by forces endorsing Juan Guaidó. However, Borrell warned Spain was not going "to allow that the embassy becomes a centre of political activism", avowing to restrict the political activities of López as guest.
For the 2019 European Parliament election in Spain, Borrell ran first in the PSOE list. During the electoral campaign he appealed to the unity of Europe and stressed the need for the EU member states to pool sovereignty in order to survive as civilization. Shortly after his election, he gave up his newly won seat before the inaugural session of the legislature, arguing that acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and he had agreed that, amid the uncertainty regarding the second investiture of Sánchez, the post of foreign minister should not be left vacant for an indefinite period.
On 2 July 2019, President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced that the European Council would nominate Josep Borrell as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The portfolio had been reportedly beefed up with additional responsibilities in humanitarian aid, support of development policies in Africa and the external dimension of immigration. Also in July 2019 he announced the acquisition of double Argentine-Spanish citizenship, assumed on 18 July 2019, thus gaining the citizenship his father was born with.
To counter its negative image in the EU, China has sent medical aid and supplies to EU countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Borrell warned that there is "a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity’. He also said that "China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner."
Borrell said that proposed Israeli annexation of the West Bank "could not pass unchallenged" and warned that "failure to adequately respond would encourage other states with territorial claims to disregard basic principles of international law". He said that "In line with international law and relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty" over the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Borrell hailed the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as benefiting both nations and being important for stability in the Middle East. He also called suspension of annexation plans positive and stated that the European Union hoped for a two-state solution.
On 9 April 2020, Josep Borrell on behalf of the EU on the release of the first report of the Investigation and Identification Team to the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and to the Secretary General of the United Nations on 8 April 2020, declared that "We fully support the report’s findings and note with great concern its conclusions. The European Union strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Air Force as concluded by the report. Those identified responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable for these reprehensible acts."
On 24 April the EU's foreign security policy agency, the European External Action Service (EEAS), published a report on disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times reported that the language had been toned down amid criticism from China. The final report differed in key areas from both an internal version and an earlier draft that had been planned for public release. At a parliamentary hearing on 30 April, Josep Borrell, acknowledged that China had expressed concerns about the report after it leaked but denied that the EU had bowed to pressure and that the report had been revised. Josep Borrell said that there were two separate reports, one for internal consumption and one for publication. Responding to questions from members of the European Parliament, Borrell accused staff of damaging the EU by leaking. He also appeared to suggest that analysts’ views were biased and cast doubt on their credibility.
“I cannot accept that the personal belief or feeling of a member of staff leaking mails — maybe being written to be leaked — created damage to the credibility of the institution," he said, later asking MEPs why “more credibility” was being given “to the personal opinion of a member of a staff”.
Multiple EU officials told BuzzFeed News and the NY Times that they were left angry and disappointed by Borrell's focus on leaks and, in particular, his singling out of junior staff members.
There is a long-standing dispute between Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea. In August 2020, Borrell expressed "full solidarity" with Greece and Cyprus (Turkey has occupied the northern part of Cyprus since July 1974) and called for "immediate deescalation" by Turkey and "reengaging in dialogue."
In February 2021, he voiced "strong concern" about China's "treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular" ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In March 2021, Borrell said China's sanctions on EU officials had created "a new atmosphere" and "a new situation."
Although there were warnings from several EU countries, on his own initiative Borrell decided to make the first high-level EU trip of its type in four years to Russia amidst the 2021 Russian protests to meet with Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia. The visit was described as a humiliation for Borrell[by whom?] as he stood by while Lavrov called the EU an "unreliable partner" and Russia expelling three EU diplomats at the same precise time as Borrell and Lavrov were holding their joint press briefing. This led to a group of over 70 MEPs to call for Borrell's resignation.
In June 2021 the Spanish newspaper ABC published a mail that described that Borrell had informed the Cuban embassy about the debate in the European Parliament about the situation in Cuba and that showed his intention to stop the debate and prevent it from reaching the Parliament's floor. A group of at least 16 MEPs asked Borrell for explanations.
In August 2021, Borrell received criticism[by whom?] for sending a ranking EU representative to attend the inauguration of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. Some members of the European Parliament believed that sending a senior diplomat “...contradicts European commitments to uphold and stand for human rights.”
In October 2021, he went to Saudi Arabia after visiting Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Borrell said that the EU "now has human rights dialogues with all Gulf States and we launched such a dialogue with Saudi Arabia this week. This is an area where there is much to gain for both sides from closer cooperation."
On 18 October 2021, Borrell argued that the 2021 global energy crisis had "deep geopolitical roots. ... the price of gas, the scarcity, is something that has to be looked at from a geopolitical perspective."
Borrell was first married with French sociologist Carolina Mayeur. The marriage had two sons in common, Joan, a diplomat, and Lionel, an aircraft pilot. Borrell and Mayeur divorced in the 1990s. Since 1998, Borrell has been in a relationship with Cristina Narbona, current president of the PSOE and former Minister of Environment (2004–2008). The couple, resident in Valdemorillo since 2001, married in July 2018.
He has been a keen participant in the annual festivity in his native Pobla de Segur descending the Noguera Pallaresa river, in which the stream is rowed down by the partakers as log drivers (raiers).
|Majadahonda municipal election, 1979||PSOE||–||5th (out of 17)||Elected|
|Spanish general election, 1986||PSC–PSOE||Barcelona||8th (out of 33)||Elected|
|Spanish general election, 1989||PSC–PSOE||Barcelona||5th (out of 32)||Elected|
|Spanish general election, 1993||PSC–PSOE||Barcelona||2nd (out of 32)||Elected|
|Spanish general election, 1996||PSC–PSOE||Barcelona||2nd (out of 31)||Elected|
|Spanish general election, 2000||PSC–PSOE||Barcelona||2nd (out of 31)||Elected|
|European Parliament election, 2004||PSOE||Spain||1st (out of 54)||Elected|
|European Parliament election, 2019||PSOE||Spain||1st (out of 51)||Elected|