José María Aznar was born in Madrid in 1953. He studied a Degree in Law at the Complutense University and has held the qualification of Inspector of State Finances since 1975.
He is the President of FAES (Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis). He is also a Distinguished Scholar at Georgetown University, where, beginning in Autumn 2004, he teaches various seminars on contemporary European politics at the Edmund A. Walsh School. He is the Chairman of the Christian Democrat and People’s Parties International (CDI) and Honorific President of the Partido Popular, party in which he held the Executive Presidency between 1990 and 2004.
Mr. Aznar became President of the Spanish Government (Prime Minister) in 1996, following the electoral success of the Partido Popular. Following the party's repeated success at the polls in the year 2000, this time obtaining an absolute majority, Aznar was elected again. He held the presidency up until the Elections of 2004, at which he voluntarily stood down in favour of a new candidate.
Throughout his time as President of the Government, he led a significant process of economic and social reform. Thanks to his liberalization and competition policies, budget control, rational public spending and tax cuts, almost 5 million new jobs were created in Spain. The Spanish GDP figure increased year after year at a rate of over 2%, on average 3,4%, featuring accumulated growth of 64% over eight years. Throughout this time, the country advanced from 78% to 87% of the EU average income. The public deficit was reduced from 6% of GDP until the budget was balanced in the year 2002. Furthermore, during Aznar's time as President, Spain enjoyed its first two reductions in income tax since the advent of democracy.
One of José María Aznar's main concerns is the battle against terrorism. He is in favour of a firm policy, contrary to any kind of political concession, as well as the idea of fostering close international cooperation among the democratic countries. He is a firm supporter of the close relationship with America and of the European Union's commitment to promoting greater freedom and economic reforms.
José María Aznar began his political career as member of Alianza Popular in 1979. In 1982 he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Ávila. He was later promoted to the post of Regional President of Alianza Popular in Castile and León and between 1987 and 1989 he served as Head of the Regional Government of Castile and León.
In 1989, following the re-founding of the Partido Popular, Aznar was elected as a candidate for President of the Spanish Government for the General Elections of 1989. The following year he was elected as Chairman of the party. He once again headed the list of Partido Popular candidates in 1993, 1996 and the year 2000. Throughout these four legislatures, he served as a Member of Parliament for Madrid. Between 1989 and 1996 he was the leader of the Opposition.
Aznar has written several books, including the following: Libertad y Solidaridad (“Freedom and Solidarity”) (1991), España: la segunda transición (1994) (“Spain: The Second Transition”), La España en que yo creo (1995) (“The Spain I Believe In”), Ocho años de Gobierno (2004) (“Eight Years of Government”) and Retratos y Perfiles: de Fraga a Bush (2005) (“Portraits and Profiles: from Fraga to Bush”)
He is married to Ana Botella and has three children.
Mart Laar was the Prime Minister of Estonia in 1992-1994 and 1999-2002. He is an Estonian historian and former Member of Parliament. Mr Laar was born in 1960 behind the Iron Curtain. He is the author of the 1992 book War in the Woods, which documents the Estonian resistance fighters' struggle against Estonia's occupation by the Soviet Union after World War II. As prime minister of Estonia, Laar's free-market reforms took Estonia from a country devastated by Soviet economics to one of the most vibrant in Europe, with a a 7% rate of growth and 90% of all enterprises in private hands. He currently lectures all over the world about the flat tax and Estonia's renaissance.
Bishop Rino Fisichella is international president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and rector of the Lateran University in Rome.
A former professor of theology at Gregorian University, Fisichella is the chaplain of the Italian parliament. As auxiliary bishop of the Rome diocese, he led its Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue in an effort to strengthen relations with Rome’s Jewish community.
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