University News

Former Prime Minister of Italy talks European Union, Brexit

Romano Prodi urges Europe to unify, predicts decreased political engagement

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2017

Romano Prodi, former prime minister of Italy and president of the European Commission and adjunct professor of international and public affairs, spoke at the Watson Institute of International and Public Affair’s Joukowsky Institute Thursday for a talk titled, “The Future of Europe in the Wake of Brexit.” He spoke about the build-up to the current political state of the European Union and his views on the direction of global politics.

Prodi reflected on important trends in the EU, from the consistent growth of Germany to the rise of populist parties across the continent. When he first became president of the European Commission, many considered “Europe … a union of minorities,” Prodi said. Now Europe seems to be driven by a “two-piston engine of France and Germany,” he added.

The future of the continent was also a common theme. Prodi argued that, with more political parties, Germany’s government may be at risk for instability. He also said that France, with its nuclear arms, could begin to maneuver itself into a higher position of power in the coming years.

Referring to the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU, Prodi suggested that the rest of the world would see less political engagement out of Europe, he stated. “Other countries won’t leave as they are too dependent on money and there is no alternative,” Prodi said. “The Union will not collapse … how strong they will now be will depend on the new political equilibrium.”

Prodi compared the current situation to the inability of the Italian states to come together during the Renaissance, which led to their disappearance off the global radar for years.

His talk concluded with thoughts on future unity and solidarity. “Europe goes together or we will disappear,” he said. “We must take the challenge now, or it will be too late in the future. … We will fall off the world stage for centuries.”

Responding to an audience member’s question about the Euro’s impact on the Union, he said the currency is critical for Europe’s future. “There is no unity without a common currency … (Europe) started with two pillars — army and currency — and one was conquered.”

“I hope we shall link as it was in the past, American-European interests,” he said. “We need a more assertive Europe otherwise this will be for nothing.”

Numerous students, faculty and staff were in attendance at the Joukowsky Forum.

“He is a leader of European political thought, and parts of his talk resonated with me,” said Alok Beeharry ’19.

Also present was David Kertzer, Dupee University professor of social science, who spoke on bringing Professor Prodi to Brown. “He spends a couple weeks a semester here and he feels tied and linked to the University. I obviously thought it would be great to bring him back to talk, especially considering his role in the EU.”

Edward Steinfeld, director of the Watson Institute, spoke on bringing Prodi to Brown once again. “Europe is on everybody’s minds, and Prodi has been so central in the building of the EU … He provides a view from an academic side and from the view of someone involved in it.”

“I would be very happy to have him back, and I’m eager to find ways for him to be a member of the community,” Steinfeld added.