Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who was once president of the European parliament, will stand for European elections in May, his Socialist (PSOE) party said Tuesday.
The 71-year-old veteran Catalan politician, who is staunchly pro-EU and fiercely critical of his region’s independence movement, will head up the Socialists’ list for the 26 May polls, a party spokeswoman said.
Borrell became foreign minister in June when Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez ousted his conservative predecessor in a no-confidence vote.
But Sánchez has been forced to call early general elections on 28 April after his minority government failed to get the necessary parliamentary support for his 2019 budget.
The socialists are far from assured of staying in power after the elections, with some opinion polls suggest right-wing and far-right parties could get a majority in parliament.
Outspoken, Borrell has been very vocal abroad in refuting Catalan separatists’ claims that Spain lacks political freedoms as 12 pro-independence leaders are on trial over their role in a 2017 secession attempt.
He dismissed official figures from the Catalan government claiming that 1,066 people were injured by the Spanish police during the 2017 referendum as “fake news.”
He was also active in trying to push the European Union to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of the economically strapped country.
Borrell was once at the head of the Socialist party, elected leader in 1998.
But he renounced the position the following year before a 2000 general election due to a financial scandal involving two of his former co-workers when he was deputy finance minister.
He bounced back by dedicating himself to European affairs, serving as president of the European parliament between 2004 and 2007.