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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Profile: Josep Borrell
European parliament president Josep Borrell
Borrell held various ministerial positions in Spain
The newly enlarged European parliament has elected Spaniard Josep Borrell as its president.

Suitably for a man charged with overseeing Europe's disparate political factions, Mr Borrell says he is a uniter, not a divider.

The former leader of Spain's Socialist Party says he does not believe in labels that "perpetuate our division".

His diplomatic skills will be tested to the full.

The parliament he leads pitches former Soviet bloc states in with the "old Europe" of France and Germany, which are seemingly reluctant to give up their old position at the centre of policy.

It also includes a significant minority of Eurosceptics, opposed to the existence of the parliament at all.

From Vilnius to Lisbon, from Edinburgh to Athens, we are all part of the same Europe
Josep Borrell
But on the morning of his election to the job, he promised to be a man to whom any of these could turn.

"I am European, just like I am Spanish and Catalan. But I come neither from the old nor from the new Europe. I am simply a European who rejects names that are meant to perpetuate our division," he said.

"We have all been once new to the Union. And from Vilnius to Lisbon, from Edinburgh to Athens, we are all part of the same Europe.

"The reunification has put an end to the sad legacy of Hitler and Stalin, but we have much to do to make it effective.

"It will test our solidarity and will demand respect of more diverse opinions."

Party reformer

Born in the foothills of the Pyrenees in 1947, Mr Borrell left school at the age of 10 to help out in the family bakery.

But he finished his schooling at home and proved to be an accomplished student.

His university career started in Madrid reading aeronautical engineering, and by the time he had completed stints in California and Paris, he had earned two masters degrees and a doctorate in economic science.

JOSEP BORRELL
1947: Born in Catalonia
1979: Joined Socialist Party
1991: Became minister
1998: Elected to lead party
1999: Resigned from leadership
2004: Elected president of European parliament
Mr Borrell began his political career in his native region of Catalonia, before making his name in the Socialist Party, going on to become minister for transport, public works and the environment.

In 1998 he took over his party. His election was a surprise, as he did not have the support of his predecessor, the charismatic former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

He sought to distance himself from the Gonzalez years and to reform the party.

But his campaign ran off the tracks in May 1999, and he resigned.

He said he did not want a fraud investigation into two of his former business partners to damage his party's chances as it approached local, and then general, elections.

Following his setback, he took up several posts representing Spain in Europe.

His election to the parliamentary presidency in Europe suggests his political recovery is complete.


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