Joaquín Almunia (Bilbao, 1948) is one of Spain’s most experienced politicians on the international scene, especially in relation to the European Union. He was the EC Vice President and European Commissioner for Competition from 2010 to 2014, and prior to that was the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs from 2004 to 2010.
He has a degree in Law and Economics from the University of Deusto (Bilbao), and undertook his postgraduate studies at L’École Pratique des Hautes Études (Practical School of Advanced Studies) in Paris.
He began his career as an economist at the Bureau of the Spanish Chambers of Commerce in Brussels (1972 – 1975). Almunia then went on to become Chief Economist at the UGT, a Spanish trade union, from 1976 to 1979, before devoting himself to politics in the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) (Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party).
“Europe has to capitalise on its experience and robustness to deal with all global economic actors on equal terms.”
From March 1979 to April 2004 he was a member of the Spanish Parliament. During this time he was Minister for Employment and Social Affairs (1982-1986) and Minister for Public Administration (1986-1991) in successive PSOE governments. In 1997 he became the party’s leader and was the PSOE’s candidate for Prime Minister in the general elections in 2000, but as he did not win, he resigned from his post. Then, he took part in the program “Senior Managers in Government” at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was also an associate Employment Law lecturer at the University of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid).
Almunia has always demonstrated a strong pro-European vocation. In April 2004, he was appointed a member of the European Commission. As the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs he had to confront the flare-up of the most serious economic and financial crisis that the EU has ever had to face. He was always noted for being a staunch advocate of the euro, as a currency unit and as a political commitment that was vital to maintain, and for being a firm believer in the existence of instruments for preventing a deep recession, through the implementation of appropriate fiscal policies along with monetary policy.
In 2010, the Portuguese President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso made him Vice-President and gave him control over the competition portfolio, so in that post he continued to maintain his institutional commitment to Europe.
Nowadays, having left his positions in the European Union, Almunia is bringing to bear his extensive career and experience, devoting himself to research and thought at various think tanks and through other platforms, such as lectures, books and articles for different media. Among other roles, he is a Visiting Professor at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the Paris School of International Affairs of Sciences Po.
In 2001 he published his “Memorias Políticas” (Political Memoirs), in which he gives a first–person account of his political career in the PSOE, having borne witness to the modernisation process of a country such as Spain, from the transition to democracy, to this current critical period, which is presenting a whole series of new political challenges.