Thursday, 21 July 2011

Spaniard named as EU special representative for the southern Mediterranean

EUROPEAN UNION (El Pais) European Union foreign ministers have formally confirmed the appointment of Spanish diplomat Bernardino León as EU special envoy for the southern Mediterranean. The final selection of the current aide to Prime Minister Zapatero was a simple procedure which took place at the beginning of a meeting held on Monday in Brussels. León will get to work at his new post immediately. "I think he will travel to Tunisia and Egypt," the EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, mentioned upon her arrival at the European Union Council. The Spaniard will appear before the European Parliament after the summer break.>>>

According to Ashton, the Union intends to respond "in the best possible way" to the democratic transition processes in Egypt and Tunisia. This new post was created as a result of the so-called Arab Spring, and as an attempt by the Union to recover the initiative in the Mediterranean region. When Ashton proposed León as a candidate, she was confident that the Spanish diplomat would foster dialogue between the region's leaders. She said back then that León was "an excellent choice for this task. He has vast experience."

The 46-year-old León has spent most of his 20 years of diplomatic experience in the Arab world, in particular in Algeria and Libya. He was personal advisor to Miguel Ángel Moratinos when the latter was EU special representative in the Middle East. During that period, he focused on Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Since 2008, León has worked as chief secretary to the prime minister and as Zapatero's main foreign policy advisor.

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