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Former Italian P.M. discusses Europe’s future

By
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For Europe to emerge as a stronger player in the global arena today, countries within the European Union must push for greater cooperation, flexibility and unity, former Prime Minister of Italy Romano Prodi told a packed Salomon 101 Monday afternoon.

Prodi, who served as Italy’s prime minister twice from 1996 to 1998 and from 2006 to May 2008, is a professor-at-large at the Watson Institute for International Studies through 2014.

Prodi’s Monday lecture, entitled “Is there a New Role for Europe in Today’s World?” was part of a memorial series held annually since 1965 in honor of Stephen Ogden Jr. ’60, who died in an automobile accident in 1963. Prodi also delivered a lecture as part of the series in 1999 when he was president of the European Commission.

He is currently chairman of the United Nations’ African Union Panel for Peacekeeping in Africa.

President Ruth Simmons, who introduced Prodi before the lecture, acknowledged the value of his “insider’s perspective” in world politics. Many community members and students attended the hour-long lecture and asked questions about Europe’s future.

As the largest exporter of goods in the world, Europe is viewed as an important actor in international relations, Prodi said.

But he said the difficult task of uniting the European Union’s 27 countries and 496 million people often stymies decision-making and resigns Europe to the role of a “spectator” in the international arena.

To illustrate the EU’s challenge of reaching unanimous decisions, Prodi gave the example of European countries’ opposing positions over the conflict in Kosovo. The problem, he said, was one that “needed to be solved by Europeans,” but with the EU divided, the United States intervened.

Prodi suggested doing away with the rule of unanimity and called for more flexibility within the organization. If the EU continues to be divided, Prodi said, “All the power that we have will disappear.”

Prodi also acknowledged China’s increasing role as an important global actor.

“No decision in the world will be made without China,” he said.

At the end of the lecture, Prodi fielded several questions, including those about Turkey’s position in Europe’s future and the EU’s role in environmental stewardship.

Prodi said Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country which has been formally seeking EU membership since 2005, would be an important addition to the organization.

“Turkey will be very positive inside the union,” he said, but added that the organization should move forward “with wisdom in terms of time.”

As for Europe’s role in environmental issues, Prodi said its various governments must seek to work together as ecological problems cannot be solved by any one government alone.

Many audience members seemed excited that Prodi is at Brown as part of the Watson faculty.

Ilana Nelson-Greenberg ’10 said she was glad to hear from a leader of a Western power, especially because she felt that Brown students often hear perspectives from developing countries, but not often from established states.

“He brought in a perspective that we don’t hear much at Brown,” she said.

But not everyone was satisfied with Prodi’s presentation.

“I feel like the questions were much more interesting than the lecture,” Carlo Coppetti ’11 said after the event. “He talked about political development but not much about the cultural implications.”

Prodi will give another lecture on Thursday entitled “Italy Today: Priorities, Politics and Prospects.” He will also head a study group with students that will meet to discuss peacekeeping in Africa and the Euro as a currency.

Click here to read a Q&A with Prodi.

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