For the last nine years, the Javier Solana was the EU's foreign policy chief. The 66-year old Spanish politician has crafted and represented EU common foreign policy for an ever rising number of EU member states, which often have their own strong views on foreign policy issues. Between 1995 and 1999, he steered NATO through its deployments on the Balkans and the bombing campaign in Kosovo and Serbia.
One of the EU's most notable foreign policy successes is the diplomatic intervention during the Macedonian conflict in 2001, which led to the Ohrid Agreement and contributed significantly to avoid Macedonia sliding into civil war. Solana himself likes to share the recognition with EU member states, which supported him, and the EU special representative Francois Leotard, who was appointed to facilitate the negotiations at the end of June 2001:
"The rapidity, the speed at which the European Union was present, immediately after the beginning of the potential conflict was fundamental. And the second thing, we were there with tremendous tenacity, day and night, talking with everybody, hours and hours, and we really prevented the breaking of the negotiations, and we started a process that is still alive and in good health."
Solana became involved in the search for a resolution of the conflict early on, conducting a busy shuttle diplomacy during the domestic talks led by late Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in spring 2001. In July, this dialogue became stuck. However, it had made clear which issues were important to the two sides. The Albanians demanded decentralisation, representation at all levels of government and in the public administration, representation in the police forces, and the use of the Albanian language, while the Macedonians wanted to preserve a unitary, centrally organised state.
At the end of July, a visit by Solana, NATO General-Secretary George Robertson and OSCE Chairman Mircea Geoana unblocked the talks. It was decided to move them out of Skopje to a more secluded place: a tourist resort at lake Ohrid in south-west Macedonia. The negotiations between 28 July and 9 August were intense and rocky, but ended successfully with the initialling of the Ohrid Agreement.
During his one-day visit, Solana managed to convince the Albanians to accept a compromise: the chief of the local police would be chosen by the municipal council from a shortlist provided by the Minister of Interior, and the composition of the police would reflect the ethnic composition of the country's population, not the population at the local level.
After this break-through, it was relatively easy to negotiate the remaining issues. The Ohrid Agreement was signed on 13 August in Skopje by President Trajkovski, Albanian and Macedonian party leaders and the US and EU special representatives, James Pardew and Francois Leotard. Javier Solana, George Robertson and Mircea Geoana witnessed the signing.
Solana continued to be involved in the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, intervening in moments when there were problems. He sees Macedonia as a major success:
"If you consider 2001 at the brink of catastrophe, and 2008 at the brink of the EU, this is great success."