A Fulbrighter’s Mission for Peace and Cooperation
Javier Solana, PhD
Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain (1992-1995), NATO Secretary-General (1995-1999)
1966 Fulbright Foreign Student from Spain
Dr. Javier Solana (right) during his tenure in the Spanish government.
Dr. Francisco Javier Solana de Madariaga, a Spanish physicist and politician, has used his professional career in academia and government to advocate for international cooperation among European nations, the United States, and the world. As a Spanish and European diplomat, Solana advanced European integration, and as the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Solana helped lead the organization in its transformation following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Born in Madrid in 1942 to a politically active family, Dr. Solana became a student member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) in the early 1960s. While working with the PSOE to oppose the fascist rule of Francisco Franco, he studied at Complutense University of Madrid, the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research, and abroad in the United Kingdom.
During his six-year Fulbright experience from 1965 to 1970, Dr. Solana visited and studied at various universities within the United States, eventually completing his doctorate in physics at the University of Virginia. On campus in Charlottesville, he not only taught physics classes and conducted research towards his thesis, he also joined in campus protests against the Vietnam War. As president of the Association of Foreign Students, he also played a role in unifying the international community on campus.
Speaking on the impact of Fulbright, Dr. Solana stated, “The Fulbright Program is a network of good people who become friends, who become people who try to project the values of peace, cooperation, for social well-being. All those things, which are the great values […] we need to continue to cultivate today.”
After his time in the United States, Dr. Solana returned to Spain to teach solid-state physics at his alma-mater, Complutense University of Madrid. After a few years in academia, he was elected to the Spanish parliament in 1982, and later appointed to the Spanish cabinet, where he held many positions, including Minister of Education and Science, Minister of Culture, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In December 1995, he became Secretary-General of NATO. While initially an opponent of Spain joining NATO, Solana went on to lead the alliance through conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also presided over the historic enlargement of NATO in 1999 when the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland became the first former communist states to join the Alliance.
Continuing his career as a diplomat, Dr. Solana was appointed Secretary General of the Council of the European Union in 1999. In this role he worked to create consensus on foreign and security policy issues to strengthen the Union’s authority in international affairs. Today, Dr. Javier Solana continues to influence the field of foreign policy as a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution and President of Barcelona’s University of Administration and Business Management (ESADE) Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics in Spain.
In his own words, “The Fulbright Program has had a positive and important impact on generations of young Spaniards and Americans. If we are looking for ways to reinforce the transatlantic relationship, this is something we must do more of.”