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Q&A with Romano Prodi

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Before his lecture Monday, Romano Prodi, former prime minister of Italy and professor-at-large at the Watson Institute for International Studies, sat down with The Herald to talk about a variety of topics, including his love for teaching, his view of President Obama’s administration and his thoughts on Europe’s future.

Herald: What brought you to the United States to teach, and more specifically, why did you choose Brown?

Prodi: I have already been teaching (for) many years in the United States, and so I came back very happily, especially to Brown because I am an honorary graduate … I hope this will be useful for the students, because I am not anymore a professor at my university, because when I started the political life, I retired, of course. But I like to teach. I have done (so) for 27, 28 years of my life. And I accepted immediately, you know. There was no need to bargain or discuss.

How has your time at Brown been so far?

I enjoy it. I hope that it will be a little warmer in the next days, but this morning I went jogging very early. And this is a great campus, beautiful campus. All this part of the city is dominated by the University.

How do you feel President Obama has handled his first months in office?

In foreign policy, the message is new. Honestly, I think that (it has) not yet translated in actions – specific actions – because you need time, you know. But I never – during the previous administration – I never (heard) the word “dialogue.” Never, never, never. And I think that at least this will positively change the image of the United States. Because Obama is not giving any signal of weakness. … It’s not rhetoric – it’s change, it’s fact.

For the internal policy, not going into the details, the package envisioned by the American government is in the right direction to give a strong impulse to the economy. My only preoccupation is that this must be implemented very quickly. Timing is vital. … The American engagement is not big, it’s not sufficient. … This new blood must be put in circulation very soon, otherwise the body dies. This is my real worry. And my second worry is concerning rules … we must have strong global rules.

What are the most pressing problems facing Italy today?

You have to forgive me if I am reluctant to answer that because I am not anymore in politics and I have been (the leader) of the government for almost five years in two phases. But (in) Italy, from the government’s point of view, we have a big problem because the country bases on exporting goods. The number of people … suffering is increasing because when an exporting country experiences a drop of exports of two figures in one shot, clearly it’s a (problem).

How is Europe’s role in the world now different?

There is a challenge and a role. The challenge is that Europe, if you took macroeconomic figures, is the biggest economic protagonist in the world. The national GNP is bigger than the U.S. in terms of exports, but as a political entity, Europe is not an actor, but a spectator…. Because we have no governance, no rules. …. Europe is, in my opinion, the greatest achievement of the last century. Because to put together the old enemies and organize one entity … is a fantastic achievement.

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