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by Rose Maramba


Spanish political leaders have been playing a very significant part in bringing EU diplomacy to the world stage from the very first time said diplomacy has been given a definitive framework within which the EU could work on its aims.

As laid out by the EU Foreign and Security Policy, EU diplomacy aims to

  • preserve peace
  • strengthen international security
  • promote international cooperation
  • develop and consolidate democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This institutional framework has been named the Common Foreign and Security Policy and its first permanent High Representative was the Spanish physicist-politician Javier Solana Madariaga, former foreign minister of a socialist Spanish government. On leaving local politics, Solana became NATO’s Secretary-General and held the post until he was chosen to head up the European Union’s foreign affairs. He took up the challenging EU job in 1999 shortly after stepping down from NATO on 6 October of that year.

L-R: U.S. President Bill Clinton, then NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1999

The importance of the EU job could be gleaned from the Clinton administration’s statement in May 2000: Solana, they said over at the White House, was the fulfillment of Henry Kissinger’s famous desire to have someone in particular to call in Europe.

Since his days as NATO’s political chief, Solana has been known as a consensus builder who nevertheless had no qualms in going above the ambassadors of Allied countries and EU member states to directly deal behind the scenes with heads of state or government in pursuit of goals.

Some of Solana’s outstanding accomplishments with and for the EU were the production of the European Security Strategy (released in December 2003), a document whose aim is to identify the threats facing the Union (not least of which is terrorism) in order to achieve a secure Europe in a better world; the negotiation of numerous Treaties of Association between the European Union and various Middle Eastern and Latin American countries; a pivotal role in preventing the proliferation of tiny untenable and potentially destabilizing independent states after the demise of the Yugoslavian federation; and a crucial role in solving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

In November 2004 the High Representative for EU’s Foreign Affairs brokered a peaceful resolution to Ukraine’s disputed presidential runoff voting whose results were deemed fraudulent by the EU and therefore unacceptable. As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, Solana told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that “Ukrainian authorities must take measures to rectify the abuse that has allowed the country’s Central Election Commission (TsVK) to declare Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner” in the runoff ballot.

This viewpoint ran counter to the Russian position and the Russians challenged the validity of the EU’s assessment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Prime Minister Yanukovych, left, on the former’s visit to Kyiv in 2006

Actually, Solana and many deputies of the European Parliament saw the developments in the Ukrainian runoff ballot as a “power struggle between the West and Russia over the long-term future of Ukraine,” according to RFE/RL.

However, the EU diplomacy would not engage Russia in a direct confrontation by openly supporting pro-EU candidate Viktor Yushchenko and directly or tacitly denigrating the Russian-leaning candidate Viktor Yanukovych. Instead, the EU’s top diplomat proffered democratic principles to pry Ukrainian politics out of the rut. That approach smacked of the moralistic contest between East and West during the Cold War.

“While the Russian Federation has openly supported one of the candidates, the European Union’s concern has been more about the realization of democratic standards manifested by transparent procedures and legal recourse,” Solana said.

Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, left, and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands after a press availability in the East Room, the White House, 4 April 2005

Solana’s democratic campaign worked. On 3 December 2004, the Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled in favor of repeating the runoff ballot on the grounds of widespread electoral fraud at the original vote favoring Yanukovych. Accordingly, the Ukrainians went to the polls again on 31 December. The encore of the runoff, pronounced fair and transparent by international observers, resulted in Yushchenko’s victory. Yanukovych conceded defeat and Solana didn’t dillydally. On 21 January 2005 he invited Ukraine’s new President Viktor Yushchenko to discuss future EU membership.

Solana’s move would have an uncanny repercussion: almost a decade later, in February 2014, the Euromaidan Revolution  erupted in Ukraine on account of the refusal by Viktor Yanukovych, who succeeded his old rival Yushchenko to the Ukrainian presidency, to sign Ukraine’s pending EU association agreement, choosing instead to bring Ukraine closer to Russia. The Euromaidan Revolution of deadly clashes between Ukrainians who wanted to align their country with the European Union and the police force brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war.

An event of the Euromaidan Revolution, 18 February 2014, Kyiv

Euromaidan would lead ultimately to the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia on 24 February 2022.

Today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who is leading his country in a desperate struggle for survival may have publicly desisted from pursuing NATO membership for Ukraine. But he would not give up hopes for an EU association perhaps with a view to a full member someday.

EU and Ukrainian flags standing side by side at the European Parliament: someday a new star might be added to the 27 stars on the EU flag–a Ukrainian star. Solana envisioned it. Zelynskyy wants it.

It has been Solana’s cherished dream for Ukraine too.

Main sources:
EU official website (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( (



> Featured image (collage):
Pro-EU Euromaidan protesters in the early days of the Euromaidan Revolution, Kyiv, December 2013. Photo by Ilya @ Wikipedia, CC BY-SA3.0. Cropped.
Javier Solana at Pentagon 23 September 1999 on the occasion of his being awarded the US Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service for his leadership of NATO over the past 4 years. Photo by R.D. Ward, PD. Cropped, flipped.

> Clinton, Solana, Albright, 1999, per Wikipedia. Lacking author of photograph as of 24 April 2022. PD.
> Putin and Yanukovych in Kyiv/, CC BY4.0
> Yushchenko and Bush, White House photo/Paul Morse, PD
> Euromaidan Revolution/Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/, CC BY-SA3.0 via Wikipedia
> EU and Ukrainian flags/Dusan_Cvectanovic, Pixabay