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He joined the Spanish Diplomatic Service in 1966. Following several assignments abroad (1966 -1969: Deputy Consul General in São Paulo, Brazil; 1975-1979: Commercial and Economic Counsellor at the Spanish Embassy in the Hague, the Netherlands) and in Spain (1969–1975: Head of Economic Studies at the Diplomatic School; Director of Technological Agreements in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Chief of Cabinet of the Minister of Industry) he dedicated a great part of his professional career to the process of integration of Spain into the European Communities.
Between 1979 and 1985 at the Ministry of European Affairs, he successively served as Advisor to the Minister, as Head of the Minister’s Private Office and as Secretary General, presiding over the technical team in charge of the accession negotiations. In 1986, when Spain joined the European Communities, he was appointed its first Ambassador Permanent Representative. He chaired the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) during the first Spanish Presidency of the EEC in 1989.
From 1991 to 1995 he was Spain’s Secretary of State for the European Union. He was centrally involved in the Spanish Presidency of the EU in 1995, which coincided with the adoption of the Euro, the launching of the Barcelona process and the signing of the transatlantic agenda. In this last capacity, he chaired the Reflection group set up to prepare the negotiations on treaty change which led to the Treaties of Amsterdam and subsequently, Nice.
In December 1995, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and served in that capacity until the end of the last government presided by Felipe González.In July 1996 he was appointed Ambassador Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations in New York.
From 1997 to 1999 he served as the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina. At his request, the Bonn conference empowered him to take the necessary decisions to implement the peace agreements (the flag, the national anthem, the single currency, common license plates, the laws on citizenship, privatization and others, refugee return, removal of elected officials, etc.)
In 1999 he was elected Member of the European Parliament representing the PSOE. He served as Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Trade, Energy and Research until 2003. In 2003 he was elected Member of the Madrid Regional Assembly and Speaker on Economy of the Socialist Group.
He was co-founder and Executive Vice-President of the Toledo Center for Peace and is now member of its board. After the elections of 2004 he was appointed Ambassador to the United States of America, a position he occupied until 2008.
He is currently principal advisor to Felipe González, Chairman of the Reflection Group established by the EU Heads of State and Government to assist the European Union to anticipate and meet the challenges facing in the period 2020 to 2030.
He is President of Westendorp International S.L., a private consulting company. He has addressed conferences and lectures and has written articles and books mostly on European Affairs, for which he was awarded the Salvador de Madariaga Prize of Journalism. He has been awarded various Spanish and foreign decorations, including the Great Cross of the Order of Charles III and Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.
| Minister of Foreign Affairs
18 December 1995 – 5 May 1996
| High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
18 June 1997 – 18 August 1999