Spain names EU lawmaker as foreign minister

21st December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's new foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, is a veteran European lawmaker whose appointment is a sign of deep concerns over the swirling eurozone debt crisis.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, a former tax inspector, and a practicing lawyer since 1990, the white-haired 67-year-old has snatched a key post in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's new government.

He is a senior member of the conservative Popular Party, which beat the Socialists in a landslide election win November 20 on a promise to rescue the slumping economy from a 21.5-percent jobless rate.

A married father of one, Garcia-Margallo is known as a bridge-builder, and as a regular writer for the centre-left daily El Pais, often focusing on European Union attempts to grapple with the sovereign debt crisis.

Though a former member of the Spanish parliament's lower house and a spokesman for previous governments on financial affairs, the bulk of his recent career has been firmly set in Europe.

Garcia-Margallo has been a member of the European parliament since 1994, serving in senior economic posts and now as vice chairman of the parliament's economic and montary affairs commission.

Rajoy has vowed to make the economy his priority, and the appointment of his close ally to the foreign ministry job clearly bore that out.

Garcia-Margallo wrote in his own blog last week that the European Union had reached a compromise between discipline and financial integration when it agreed a euro crisis pact at a December 8-9 summit.

"But only if the markets stabilise in the next week we will see if the European Council was a success," he added.

Leaders from 26 of the 27 European Union member states agreed at a high-stakes Brussels summit last week to back a Franco-German drive for tighter budget policing in a bid to save the eurozone.

After Britain, which does not use the euro, blocked changes to an EU-wide treaty, the other 26 EU states signalled their willingness to join a "new fiscal compact" imposing tougher budget rules.

The market verdict, said Garcia-Margallo, "will depend on how the European institutions decide on intervention to stabilise the markets and their clarity in advancing towards an authentic process of economic integration."

He criticised the European Union's handling of the crisis.

"Up to now we have been continually behind the markets and for that the crisis has spread like an oil stain that has even reached Germany itself," Garcia-Margallo warned.

© 2011 AFP

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