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Independence debate might play role in Spanish minister's bid for top EU diplomat job

Spain's acting foreign minister admits it will "not be easy" to gain enough support for him to be confirmed as Europe's foreign affairs representative



15 July 2019 07:32 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Spanish acting foreign minister Josep Borrell expects Catalonia's pro-independence camp to try to sabotage his bid to become the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

Nominated for the post by the European Council, Borrell admitted on Monday that pro-independence supporters will attempt to block his bid: "If they can, they will," he said.

Borrell's comments follow a controversy in which leaked documents suggested that the Spanish executive spied on Catalan government diplomats and their sympathizers abroad.

However, Borrell denied that his ministry has any spies, insisting that it "does not have the capacity nor the will to carry out such things."

Controversial figure

A fierce critic of Catalan independence, Borrell has also courted controversy for incendiary comments he has made on the likes of Kosovo, Palestine and Venezuela.

In fact, the acting foreign minister admitted that convincing a majority of the European Parliament to support his bid to become the EU's top diplomat will "not be easy."

"I cannot say the opposite of what I think and I will defend my thoughts on foreign policy," he added, speaking from Brussels.


  • "I cannot say the opposite of what I think and I will defend my thoughts on foreign policy"

    Josep Borrell · Spanish acting foreign minister

President of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2007, Borrell needs two thirds of the chamber's support in order to take up the top foreign policy post in November.

Borrell faces a question-and-answer session after the summer, and he vowed to do "everything possible" to win over the chamber, admitting "you can't make everyone happy."

Borrell also said he will use the session to try to defuse the outcry over some of his public statements by explaining the "context" so as to "avoid abusive over-simplifications."

Unwelcome headlines

Since becoming Spanish foreign minister in 2018, the outspoken Borrell has frequently been in the headlines for comments that have attracted widespread condemnation.

He recently accused US president Donald Trump of behaving like “a cowboy” for threatening military intervention in Venezuela, and in a 2018 speech said all the US had to do to gain independence was “kill four Indians.”

Borrell is also a known supporter of Iran, and earlier this year marked the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution by celebrating some of the achievements the regime has made since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979.

On Monday, Borrell also downplayed comments in which he called Russia as a "threat" to Europe, saying he had recently "joked" about it with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Yet, before Borrell's bid can go ahead, the EU chamber must confirm German minister Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission on Tuesday.

"I hope it goes well for her, but everyone shares a certain amount of concern," he added.




  • Spain's foreign minister Josep Borrell (by Natàlia Segura)

  • Spain's foreign minister Josep Borrell (by Natàlia Segura)