The European University Institute’s new Secretary General is a diplomat and politician, an Italian who has held posts in Vienna, Cairo, Brussels and Bern, where he was Italy’s Ambassador. In 2019 he was elected to the City Council of Florence; as member of the Council he was made responsible for the city’s initiatives regarding international relations, attracting investment, European policy and higher education.
As some might realise, Del Panta also is no stranger to the EUI: he was Secretary General of the Institute from 2007 until 2011.
Some rules are meant to be broken
“There is a golden rule in the Foreign Service,” says Del Panta, “that one should never return to a previous position.”
Nevertheless, Del Panta’s most recent experience building Florence’s higher education profile motivated him to apply. While a city councillor, Del Panta put together local, regional and national stakeholders to develop concrete measures and incentives to grow the city’s potential with regard to higher education, research and development.
“I am now more aware than before of the role higher education can play in the development of sustainable economies,’ he states. The EUI, which attracts researchers and resources to the area, is an important player in both local and international knowledge economies. “Returning to the EUI felt like a natural continuation of what I had started for the city of Florence.”
A changing Institute for a changing world
For Del Panta, one of the added values of the Institute—not to mention its defining feature—has been its multi-national character. What strikes him on his return, however, is how this multi-nationalism has evolved from pan-European to global.
“The future of the EUI is to remain a world-class teaching and research institution,” he says, “but the new School of Transnational Governance adds a global dimension that we must support.”
“To govern well, you need to master global affairs, you have to understand the different levels of interconnectivity, the international dimensions of both the public and the private. The EUI can be a new leader in educating policymakers to contribute to the improvement of governance globally.”
Of course, to have impact, one must be known, and reaching out beyond academic circles has been part of Del Panta’s vision for the EUI since his first tenure as Secretary General.
In 2011, he launched the EUI’s ‘The State of the Union Conference’, which was part of a larger EU initiative known as the Festival of Europe. The event was conceived of as a compelling way to bring awareness and recognition to the Institute beyond the academic realm.
The Secretary General will work to make sure that the Institute will increasingly reach out to non-contracting EU countries and EU neighbourhood countries, not to mention the many global partnerships being cultivated through the activities of the School of Transnational Governance.
Given his outward-looking approach and diplomatic expertise, the EUI is pleased to have Marco Del Panta back on board.