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Harlem Désir

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Harlem Jean-Philippe Désir ( ; born 25 November 1959) is a French politician who served in the government of France as Secretary of State for European Affairs from 2014 to 2017. Previously he was First Secretary of the French Socialist Party. Since 2017, he has served as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Early life and education

Born in Paris, Harlem Désir is the son of a Martinican father and an Alsatian mother.Direction du PS: Harlem Désir, un successeur consensuel pour Martine Aubry Nouvel Observateur 12 September 2012. "Né en 1959 d'un père antillais et d'une mère alsacienne, Harlem Désir grandit à Bagneux, en banlieue parisienne et étudie la philosophie." He grew up in a housing project in Bagneux, north of Paris.Craig S. Smith (9 November 2005), Inside French Housing Project, Feelings of Being the Outsiders New York Times.
Désir studied at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University, where he earned a license in philosophy in 1983. Also in 1983, he emerged as a leader from that year's social unrest in France and helped organize the March for Equality and Against Racism (the so-called March of the Beurs) that started in the immigrant neighborhoods outside Lyon and ended in Paris.

SOS Racism

Désir was the first president of the French anti-racist organisation SOS Racisme between 1984 and 1992. Under his leadership, the organization grew significantly in membership and acquired significant influence in French public life.SOS Racisme, une association éternellement liée à Israël?, Cinquième Colonne, 7 April 2016. Accused of misusing public assets from 1986 to 1987, he was sentenced to an 18 months suspended sentence and a 30,000 francs fine in 1998. Les hommes politiques condamnés et réélus, L'Express, 22 June 2009.

Political career

Member of the European Parliament, 1999–2014

Désir first became a Member of the European Parliament following the 1999 European elections. A member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group, he was re-elected in 2004 and 2009.
In his first parliamentary term from 1999 until 2004, Désir served on the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy. From 2004 to 2009, he was a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. In this capacity, he served as the parliament's rapporteur on the 2008 Temporary Agency Work Directive.Zoe Casey (22 October 2008), Equal rights approved for temporary workers European Voice. In his last term, he joined the Committee on International Trade. He also served as deputy chairman of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group.Martin Banks (24 November 2004), French Left ‘holds key’ to EU constitution European Voice.
In addition to his committee assignments, Désir was a member of the parliament's delegations for relations with India (2009–2014), the United States (2002–2004) and South Africa (1999–2002). From 2002 to 2004, he also served on the parliament's delegation to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of the Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union (ACP-EU).
Following the 2004 European elections, Désir became one of the vice-chairpersons of a newly established European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), alongside Claude Moraes, Saïd El Khadraoui, Emine Bozkurt, Cem Özdemir and Lívia Járóka.Helen Morris (9 November 2004), Cross-party support moves racism agenda European Voice. He was also a member of the Capital Tax, Fiscal Systems and Globalisation Intergroup of the European Parliament, to whom was presented Denis Robert and Ernest Backes's book, Revelation$, in March 2001.
Désir is considered an ardent pro-European. He fought unsuccessfully in 2005 to convince the Socialist Party to back a new European constitutional treaty.Brian Love (12 September 2012), Veteran Socialist Desir set to lead France's ruling party Reuters.
Ahead of the 2014 European elections, Désir was appointed to head the Socialist Party's list for Ile-de-France.Toby Vogel (20 November 2013), Socialist selection European Voice. Following his resignation from the European Parliament, he was replaced by Christine Revault d'Allonnes Bonnefoy.

Leader of the Socialist Party, 2012–2014

In the 2011 Socialist Party presidential primary, Désir endorsed the campaign of Martine Aubry.
On 30 June 2011, he was the delegate first secretary of the Socialist Party during the Martine Aubry bid for the Socialist Party primary, who started her campaign for presidential election of 2012 on 28 June 2011. After the resignation of Aubry on 16 September 2012, he again became First Secretary of the Socialist Party by interim.Scott Sayare (12 September 2012), France: New Leader Is Named for the Socialist Party New York Times.
Endorsed by Martine Aubry and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault before the 2012 Party Congress,Brian Love, "Veteran Socialist Desir set to lead France's ruling party", Reuters, 12 September 2012. he was elected First Secretary of the party on 18 October 2012,Joseph Bamat: Harlem Désir, France's first black president? France24, 19 October 2012. fending off competition for the post from another veteran who has also been convicted of financial misconduct, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. He became the African immigration to Europefirst black person to lead a major European political party. At the time of his election, he had never been a minister or member of the national parliament.
Désir remained head of the party until April 2014, when he stood down after being appointed State Secretary for European Affairs. He was replaced by Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. His resignation was partly explained with his attitude during the Dibrani case.Gouvernement Valls : Harlem Désir nommé secrétaire d'État aux Affaires européennes - "Un froid avec l'Élysée", on Accessed on 16 April 2014. Hollande « déçu » par Désir, on Accessed on 16 April 2014.

Minister for European Affairs, 2014–2017

On 9 April 2014, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls appointed him Secretary of State for European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. In February 2015, he was appointed chairman of the General Affairs Council of the Party of European Socialists, a position he held until leaving office.Progressive European ministers call for a Europe with strong social rights
Shortly after taking office, Désir and his Italian counterpart, Sandro Gozi, set out a list of priorities for the time after the 2014 European elections, saying the new European Commission should grant maximum flexibility within existing EU budget rules to countries undertaking growth-promoting investments and structural economic reforms. Désir also proposed creating a European savings plan to mobilize citizens' savings to invest in small business and priority infrastructure projects such as extending high-speed broadband and the transition to renewable energy.Michelle Martin (19 Jun 2014), Merkel praises Danish PM, says euro outsider can head EU Council Reuters.
On the sidelines of an informal U.N. General Assembly meeting on the rising threat of antisemitism in January 2015, Désir joined his German counterpart Michael Roth in appealing for U.N. member states to work together on an international legal framework that would make social network providers share responsibility for the use of their platforms to spread messages promoting violence; the French call for a radical shift in the way governments treat social networking companies such as Facebook and Twitter came two weeks after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris.Louis Charbonneau (22 January 2015), Social networks must help stamp out promotion of violence: France Reuters.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

Désir was appointed Representative on Freedom of the Media by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for a term of three years beginning 18 July 2017.
In 2019 he caused controversy in Albania by supporting a controversial package of law changes proposed by Albania strongman Premier Edi Rama.
In June 2020, Azerbaijan blocked a package of preliminary renewal mandates for all top OSCE officials, including Désir, and issued a letter of protest over Désir's pending reappointment in particular.Pete Cobus (July 12, 2020), Press Watchdogs Urge Azerbaijan, Tajikistan to Unblock OSCE Appointment Voice of America. Tajikistan subsequently joined in opposing the renewal.Alexandra Brzozowski (July 20, 2020), OSCE facing leadership crisis Euractiv.

Personal life

Désir is a Roman Catholic.


  • - Olof Palme Prize (1990){{Cite weburl= Désir OSCEwebsite=www.osce.orglanguage=enaccess-date=2018-11-20
  • - Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix (2016)
  • - Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit (2018) (presented by Michael Roth).Laudatio by Minister of State Michael Roth at the presentation of the Order of Merit to Harlem Désir Federal Foreign Office, press release of May 3, 2018

External links

  • Category:1959 births
    Category:Living people
    Category:MEPs for Île-de-France 2004–2009
    Category:MEPs for Île-de-France 2009–2014
    Category:Olof Palme Prize laureates
    Category:Politicians from Paris
    Category:French whistleblowers
    Category:French people of Martiniquais descent
    Category:Socialist Party (France) MEPs
    Category:MEPs for France 1999–2004
    Category:Chairmen of the Socialist Party (France)
    Category:Knights Commander of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

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