Skip to content
Florence School of Transnational Governance

Florence STG Director Stubb addresses EUI before starting as Finnish President

The entire EUI community thanks Prof Alexander Stubb for his achievements as the Director of the Florence School of Transnational Governance. Elected President of Finland on 11 February 2024, he returned to Florence for a special event on February 19 before starting his new role on March 1.

20 February 2024 | Event

STG_alex event farewell

The afternoon talk provided an opportunity to reflect on the Florence STG’s development in recent years, the state of the world after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the role of academia in fostering peace.

Director Stubb addressed the students with a message of hope:

"We live in an age of despair, [filled with] conflict and unrest, in a world of disorder where international rules and institutions are challenged and violated. But someone has to fix them, they don’t fix themselves. So, don't despair, don’t just hope, please do."

The event also marked the inauguration of the Martti Ahtisaari Peace Hall at Palazzo Buontalenti, the Florence STG’s premises in the heart of Florence. The hall served as the courtroom of the Florence Court of Appeal before the historic Palazzo Buontalenti was renovated by the Italian state to host the Florence STG.

Stubb said that peace will be his top priority for his job as President of Finland and that Martti Ahtisaari inspired him and started him on this path: “I want to speak about peace, as we are inaugurating the Martti Ahtisaari Peace Hall. Ahtisaari was a father figure and a mentor for me. He mediated peace on three continents and - of course- was deserving of his Nobel Peace Prize. He had this wonderful saying, “what humans begin, they can also end”. He never complained, he always listened, showed empathy and at the end of the day, when a deal needed to be struck, he hammered down his fist and just did it.”

Marko Ahtisaari, Artistic Director of the Helsinki Festival and son of Martti Ahtisaari, and Stubb unveiled a plaque dedicated to the late Nobel Peace laureate. He recounted to the crowd:

“Thank you [for this tribute] on my behalf and of my mother's, Eeva Ahtisaari. It’s an honour to be here. My father didn’t care much for statues and monuments built for political leaders. But he would have welcomed the rebranding of this esteemed hall for he believed in dialogue, learning, and conceptual innovation.”

Alexander Stubb joined the European University Institute as Director of the Florence School of Transnational Governance in May 2020. During his tenure, the recently founded school became a point of reference as a public policy hub focused on policymaking beyond the nation-state.

Stubb took a leave of absence in October 2023 to become a candidate in the Presidential elections in his home country. Acting Director Georgios Papakonstantinou has been leading the Florence STG since.

Prof Georgios Papakonstantinou said: “With Alex’s leadership, the school has blossomed. And I know that you [Alex] will be quick to say that this was a collective effort, but it would not have been possible without you: without your clarity of vision, strategic orientation, your ability to chart a course, understand the challenges, and feel the policy environment.”

About these four years, Evgenia Markvardt spoke on behalf of the staff: “We talk a lot about numbers, the faculty and the staff doubling and tripling, more fellows, more students, but it's not just about growing, it's also about evolving. We went from several independent programmes to really becoming an ecosystem. We evolve, we tweak, we update, and it always reflects what's happening out there today, outside of the beautiful walls of Palazzo Buontalenti.”

During Stubb’s tenure, the school moved to Palazzo Buontalenti, its premises in the heart of Florence. The first cohorts of master's students and Young African Fellows arrived on campus in 2020, while the executive education offering, the Policy Leader Fellowship went from strength to strength. Meanwhile, new initiatives such as the EIB Climate Chair, the Chair in AI & Democracy, as well as the European Digital Media Observatory and the European Media and Information Fund, completed the school’s contribution to innovative ideas on the verge of academia and policymaking.

EUI Secretary-General Marco del Panta pointed to the impact that Stubb has had on the school’s development and the EUI as a whole: “I think that I speak for the whole EUI community [when I say that] we are all very proud of you. You left a mark on the Institute and, on the Florence STG. Your presence here has been instrumental in the launch of the 'startup' that is the STG.”

Alexander Stubb concluded his speech with an emotional farewell message:

“I just want to say, hand on heart, that these have been the best years of my life. So, in many ways, I kind of feel sad to leave but also, I feel like this is “mission accomplished” [for me] and now you are going to take the STG to the next level.”

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel and the Florence STG community’s video tribute to Professor Stubb’s journey with us on Instagram.


Finnish President-elect Alexander Stubb holds EUI talk before taking office

Last update: 23 February 2024

Go back to top of the page