SPAIN'S Javier Solana stands down today as the European Union's minister for foreign affairs and security after ten years in the job; his successor is Britain's Christine Ashton. Over recent days many tributes have been paid to Solana's work in often difficult circumstances. He has been a familiar figure in European circles for many years. He was Secretary-General of the Western Europe Union before becoming in 1995 Secetary-General of Nato and in 1999 the European Union's foreign minister. By academic training he was a physicist but became involved in Spanish politics and served as minister for thirteen years in the post-Franco PSOE governments.

During the first part of Solana's time as EU foreign minister Chris Patten was responsible for external relations -- a potentially overlapping situation which they each worked to make functional. Even when the lines of responsibility became clearer in 2004 there was still uncertainty because of the prolonged process of turning the draft EU Constitution into a Treaty.

Throughout his decade with the EU Solana was to be seen at virtually all the conferences and negotiating sessions where the EU's input was sought. His style was of pragmatic, relatively low-key, behind-the-scenes diplomacy and he became a trusted and respected contributor to solutions where they could be found. “I don't think anyone could have done a better job,“ Chris Patten said yesterday, “He made Europe visible around the world.”


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