Berman was born in the Province of Drenthe and grew up in the Province of Groningen. After initially studying acting in Maastricht, he turned to psychology. He earned a bachelor degree in psychology from Utrecht University in 1983 and a master's from the University of Amsterdam in 1987. Since, he was a correspondent in Paris and Moscow for the Dutch Public Radio (Radio 1), the Dutch international radio Wereldomroep, the agrarian daily Agrarisch Dagblad, and magazine Elsevier. He presented many radio and television shows, notably for broadcaster IKON.
In June 2004 he was elected to the European Parliament. He is a member of the Labour Party, which is part of the Party of European Socialists, and sits on the European Parliament's Committee on Development and the Subcommittee on Human Rights. He is also a substitute for the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and for the Committee on Budgetary Control. Further he is the chair of the Delegation for relations with Afghanistan.
In 2009 he headed Dutch Labour in the European elections after winning the party primaries, beating Jacques Monasch, Hannah Belliot, and Kris Douma.
In 2010 he was appointed as head of the EU Election Observer Mission to Ethiopia.