José María Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado (1935-2023): President of the European Parliament, 1997-1999

Briefing 16-03-2023

José María Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado is so far the only Spaniard from the European People's Party (EPP) to serve as President of the European Parliament. He embodied a particular tradition within Spanish political life: Christian democracy. Son of the historical leader of the Spanish Right during the Second Spanish Republic, Gil-Robles lived with his family in exile in Portugal during the Spanish Civil War. He came back to Spain along with his monarchist father to oppose the dictatorship, and became very active in the European Movement and European Christian democracy organisations, helping to pave the way for national reconciliation and a democratic transition. After the dismal failure of the Christian Democratic Party in Spain's first free elections in 1977, and following the transformation of the Alianza Popular into the Partido Popular and its accession to the EPP, Gil-Robles was elected to the European Parliament in 1989. Re-elected in 1994, he became a vice president and then, from 1997 until 1999, President. During his years in office, he represented the European Parliament in the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Amsterdam. Gil-Robles played a crucial role in consolidating Parliament's scrutiny of the European Commission during the historic process that led to the resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999, putting his role as President above his personal and political connections and interests. Re-elected to Parliament for a third term, he chaired several parliamentary intergroups that reflected his Christian conviction that solidarity and human dignity were at the core of the European project. In favour of the Constitutional Treaty and later of the Lisbon Treaty, Gil-Robles supported deeper European integration, a movement that he compared to that of a tortoise. Once he had retired from Parliament, Gil-Robles remained active as Jean Monnet Chair in Madrid, and President of the Jean Monnet Foundation and of the Association of Former Members of the European Parliament.