As chairman of the North Atlantic Council -- NATO's highest decision-making body comprising high representatives of the 16 member countries -- he coordinates the policy-making process. One of his main roles is to help find common ground on which the Allies, the political authorities of the Alliance, can agree. He can also be entrusted by the member countries of the Alliance to negotiate on the Council's behalf with third parties. He is the main spokesman for the Alliance.
Dr Solana, who was born in Madrid in 1942, is a professor of solid-state physics and was a member of parliament from 1977 to 1995. He is a member of the Spanish Socialist Party.
He held a variety of cabinet posts from 1982 including Minister of Culture, government spokesman and Minister of Education and Science before becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs in July 1992, a portfolio he held until his appointment as NATO Secretary General.
Within days of Dr Solana taking up his NATO post, the NATO-led, multinational Implementation Force (IFOR) was deployed in Bosnia, under a U.N. mandate, to enforce military aspects of the Dayton peace agreements.
A year later, in December 1996, IFOR was replaced by the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia. This peace-keeping force is staying on in Bosnia under a formal extension agreed from this June. Dr Solana himself has visited Sarajevo and other localities in Bosnia many times in the past two and a half years, paying calls on NATO and non-NATO forces there.
Dr Solana, under a mandate from NATO's 16 nations, negotiated the Founding Act with the Russian Federation which was signed in Paris in May 1997 and which is establishing a new partnership of cooperation and consultation with Russia.
Under a similar, separate, mandate Dr Solana also negotiated a new relationship with Ukraine culminating in the signing of the Ukraine-NATO Charter on a Distinctive Partnership in July of 1997.
During his term in office, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, bringing together the 16 NATO nations and 28 Partner countries was set up in Sintra, Portugal, in May, 1997. The EAPC provides a political roof for consultations and cooperation on a wide variety of security-related issues among the 44 and for Partnership for Peace activities.
He presided over the NATO Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Madrid in July 1997 when the Allies invited Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to begin talks to join the Alliance.
Dr Solana will preside over the Summit of Heads of State and Government in Washington on April 24 and 25, 1999, when the Alliance celebrates its 50th anniversary and unfurls its strategic aims and policy objectives into the next century.
He is married with two children.