New EU foreign minister volunteered in a kibbutz

While he was in Israel, Josep Borrell Fontelles, who currently serves as the Spanish FM, also met his first wife and the mother of his two children.

July 4, 2019 12:25
2 minute read.
Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell Fontelles arrives to Executive tower in Montevideo

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell Fontelles arrives to Executive tower in Montevideo as European and Latin American leaders gathered in Uruguay to discuss "good faith" plan for Venezuela, Uruguay February 7, 2019. . (photo credit: REUTERS/ANDRES STAPFF)

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the Spanish politician who has been tapped to become the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, volunteered in a kibbutz as a young man, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

The High Representative is considered the equivalent of an EU foreign minister. The position is considered by many less prestigious than other key posts in the European Union political system.

However, the role has come into the spotlight in the past few years after the previous High Representative Federica Mogherini became a major actor in brokering the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany, and the European Union.

Borrell, 72, is a member of the Spanish socialist party and the current Spanish foreign minister. He served as the president of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2007. In that role, he visited Israel in 2005.

"This is not a strange land for me," he said, addressing the Knesset back then as reported by the Spanish-language Israel advocacy website Hatzad Hasheni. "Thirty-six years ago, in 1969, when I had just graduated, I came to Israel to work on a Kibbutz - the one in Galon, following in the footsteps of other young Europeans attracted by that experience." 

During his time in Israel, Borrell also met his first wife and the mother of his two children Caroline Mayeur, a French woman of Jewish origin, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

If the European Parliament confirms Borrell, one of the critical dossiers he will need to handle is Iran.

In February, he devoted a series of tweets to the topic, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"Today marks 40 years of the Islamic revolution of #Iran. This regional power has changed a lot during this time," he wrote on Twitter. "In 1976, the literacy rate was 35%. Now it's 84%. In 1980, 5% of the women employed were university students. Now they are 47%, but only 16% of the workforce is female, and the unemployment rate of women doubles that of men.

"Iran is a key country in the Middle East region. He has had an essential role in the #Siria war, helping Assad while the Americans are pulling out," he added.

He then noted how both the Vietnam war, which ended in 1975 and the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, made a big impression on his generation. He highlighted that "40 years later, #Vietnam is a productive power, fully integrated into the world economy and has excellent relations with #UnitedStates," and that "three (US) presidents have visited this country since 1999," while "Iran remains an obsession for the US Government.

"They still do not have diplomatic relations, and Trump has also withdrawn from the Nuclear Pact and has imposed sanctions," he further tweeted.

"Surely Iran can survive the sanctions if Trump is not re-elected. Otherwise, the regime could reactivate the nuclear program for military purposes and multiply its interventions in the region," he concluded.

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