Romano Prodi's lecture, held in a packed Elinor Ostrom Room in Palazzo Buontalenti, focused on global politics, with a particular focus on the role of China, the United States and the European Union.
Prodi talked about China presenting itself as a reliable partner, while the turbulence of democratic processes makes it more difficult for the EU to compete.
Referring to EU-US relations, Prodi said the relationship is “strong on foreign policy, but difficult on economic matters.” He also touched upon trade and antitrust policy, remarking that the EU is missing in action among the biggest digital companies worldwide.
Throughout his talk, Romano Prodi drew from his extensive experience in Italian and European politics to discuss the role of different actors on the issues dominating the political agenda today, including energy security and the war in Ukraine.
Prodi praised the EU’s resolve in its support of Ukraine after Russia’s invasion, but said the union was until recently absent in conversations about conflict mediation. He stressed the importance of a united Europe: “If we are divided, we disappear.”
In the name of Giorgio La Pira
A joint initiative with Fondazione CR Firenze, the Distinguished Giorgio La Pira lecture is about building bridges between Europe and other continents. The lecture, named after the visionary mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, returned after a break forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. In October 2019, Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivered the very first Distinguished Giorgio La Pira Lecture about the importance of international cooperation in addressing global challenges. Responding to a question of a journalist, Prodi said that “Giorgio La Pira would have walked back and forth between Kiev and Russia in order to get peace if he would have been alive today.”
The cooperation between the Fondazione CR Firenze and the European University Institute started in 2019. Since then, 12 students have been awarded a Fondazione CR Firenze scholarship to take part in the Master of Arts in Transnational Governance, four per academic year.
Professor Renaud Dehousse, President of the European University Institute who opened the event with Fondazione CR Firenze President Luigi Salvadori, said he was delighted ''to continue our fruitful collaboration with the Fondazione CR Firenze by broadening the horizon beyond Europe, in particular by helping deserving students from the southern hemisphere. We are even more pleased to do so in memory of Giorgio La Pira, who was a pioneer of dialogue between the shores of the Mediterranean.''
Five master’s students on a Giorgio La Pira scholarship quizzed Prodi after his lecture.
Diana Usmanov from Kazakstan asked Prodi about the evolving US-China rivalry and how the EU can promote a more cooperative relationship between the two countries. Clarke Sumbule Wafula from Kenya, enquired about the EU competing with China for meaningful partnerships in Africa. Others had questions about the war in Ukraine and EU relationships with Latin America.
The second Giorgio La Pira lecture concluded with a lively Q&A session with the audience in Palazzo Buontalenti.