Welcome back, Mr Borrell: a not-so-diplomatic type for a diplomatic top job

External Relations

The longtime catalan politician Josep Borrell has been recently appointed as the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security of the European Union. He is not new in Brussels: he already played a major role working as the European Parliament President during the years 2004-2007.


Politician of long experience, polyglot and well-known for his firm and direct approach, Josep Borrell started being popular in Spain in the early ‘80s, joining a number of different socialist governments – since when, in 1982 the appointed Prime Minister was the famous Felipe Gonzales.

The nomination of Borrell as the new High Representative has been strongly endorsed by the current Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Moreover, Borrell was one of the few main characters of the socialist group who supported Pedro Sanchez since the very beginning of his political race and in particular during his political doom in 2016, when Sanchez was sidelined by the party leadership.


Borrell gained his moment of greatest visibility during the first demonstrations against the independence of Catalonia, organized in Barcelona in October 2017. For this reason his nomination as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, in June 2018, did not appeased Catalan independentist parties, which were wondering about the possibility of paving the way to a reliable dialogue with a more flexible socialist.

In the last two years, his opposition to the independence of Catalonia payed him with several endorsements and general consensus amidst politicians in Brussels, who were worried about separatists and looking at them as a real threat to the EU survival.

On the contrary, Borrell’s and the Spanish government anti-secessionist ideas might easily turn on Borrell himself.

In particular, Spain is one of the few European countries who does not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state: Spanish governments have never accepted to legitimate the country’s secession from Serbia, because of the fear that a similar process could represent a dangerous precedent that could be of help to the Spanish more independentist regions, as Catalonia and the Basque Country. Moreover, journalist Diego Torres put it down for Politico.eu that this position might harm EU diplomacy on the Balkans, and, in general concur to create frictions while not real fractures between EU member States.

Josep Borrell already made it clear: his approach will be firmly different from his predecessor Mogherini. Less trips abroad and more assertive actions, in order to make the EU more consistent and efficient against the Russian threat, the US animosity, and the Chinese massive rise.

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