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Former president of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, is reported to have accepted an offer from the new Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, to become his foreign minister. Borrell, who was Spanish minister of Public Works, Transport and the Environment from 1991 to 1996, had been listed this weekend among the Catalans best placed to join Sánchez's cabinet.

Borrell had rejected standing for the Catalan parliament on 21st December last year as number three on PSC's electoral list for Barcelona province, saying his time as an active politician was over. The offer of a ministry in Madrid, however, has led him to change his mind this Monday afternoon.

The expected calendar says the new ministers will be officially announced on Wednesday, they will be sworn in on Thursday and the first meeting of Sánchez's cabinet will take place on Friday.

Recently, Borrell has positioned himself as strongly opposed to Catalan independence. He has had a leading role in various unionist demonstration, including the one called by Societat Civil Catalana in Barcelona after last year's referendum.

Last December, he sparked controversy when arguing that before Catalonia can start to "heal its wounds", it needs to be "disinfected", recommending this start with the media.

The news of his appointment hasn't been well received by pro-independence parties, seeing this first choice by Sánchez as a step more towards increasing the tension between Barcelona and Madrid than one towards opening a period of dialogue and negotiation.

Biography in brief

Born in La Pobla de Segur, Lleida, Catalonia in 1947, Josep Borrell is an aeronautical engineer with a doctorate in economic sciences. He was minister of Public Works, Transport and the Environment during the third and fourth governments of Spanish PM Felipe González (PSOE). Later, he was president of the European Parliament (2004-2007). In 2009, he joined the board of Spanish multinational Abengoa and a year later became chair of its international advisory board.

He has published a number of books during his career, the most recent being Las cuentas y los cuentos de la independencia (2015; literally "The accounts and stories of independence"), with Joan Llorach, and Los idus de octubre: Reflexiones sobre la crisis de la socialdemocracia y el futuro del PSOE (2017; literally "The ides of October: Reflections on the crisis of social democracy and the future of PSOE).