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Josep_Borrell

Josep Borrell

Josep Borrell Fontelles (born April 24, 1947) is a Spanish politician. He was President of the European Parliament from July 20, 2004 until January 16, 2007. Elected for the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), he sits with the Party of European Socialists group, and is the leader of the Spanish delegation. As of January 2007 he is chair of the Committee on Development.

In the presidential vote, out of 700 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). 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 this term, which is from 2007 to June 2009.

Background

He was born and grew up in the village of La Pobla de Segur, where his father owned a small bakery. His very basic education was supplemented by reading, but was able to complete his secondary in Lleida. He went to Barcelona to study industrial accounting, but left after a year in 1965 to go and study aeronautical engineering at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), graduating in 1969. During this time he also began to study economic sciences at the Complutense University. In the summer of 1969 he stayed on a kibbutz in Israel, where he met his future French wife Carolina Mayeur, from whom he is now divorced. In 1975 he worked in Madrid as an engineer for the state petroleum company Campsa, joining PSOE in the same year even though it was an illegal party until February 1977. In 1979 he became a member of the Madrid Parliament until 1982 when the new PSOE government of Felipe González appointed him to a post within the Ministry of Economy with responsibility for fiscal policy. In 1998 he ran against PSOE's General Secretary Joaquin Almunia in an primary election intended to determine who the party would nominate as its prime ministerial candidate in the 2000 General Elections, but due to internal pressures within the PSOE, Borrell resigned from candidacy in 1999. He had to publicly deny rumors that he was a homosexual, while asserting his respect for homosexuals. In 2004 Prime Minister and PSOE's General Secretary Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero proposed Borrell to lead the Socialist Ticket in the 2004 European Elections managing to win the elections by a narrow margin.

Since 1998, Borrell has been in a relationship with Cristina Narbona, ex-Environment Minister of Spain.

Criticism

On September 28, 2006, Josep Borrell argued that there are Nordic countries in the European Union which have not experienced the rigours of war, demonstrating a lack of knowledge in history. Two of the three Nordic countries, which are also members of the EU, were involved in conflict during World War II. Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union, while Denmark suffered from German occupation. Borrell was trying to defend the decision by the European Parliament to acquire their premises in Strasbourg, and pointed out that much of the opposition came from people in countries which supposedly had not experienced war. His remarks drew sharp criticism in papers throughout the Nordic countries. The Swedish language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet in Finland offered an open invitation to Borrell to visit the graves of war victims in Finland, while Finnish MEPs called Borrell's knowledge about European history "embarrassing".

The next day, Borrell claimed he was only referring to Sweden, and apologized for offending people with his comments. This remark only served to worsen the criticism, with Danish, Norwegian and Finnish papers pointing out a lack of knowledge not only about history but also about geography.

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