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College of Europe Rector Federica Mogherini visits the John Stuart Mill College

1 June 2023
On Wednesday, 24 May 2023, Federica Mogherini, Rector of the College of Europe and former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy gave a guest lecture on the EU Diplomacy and the New Geopolitics to the PPE, and Law and Political Science students from the VU.

The lecture started with an overview of the sequence of critical events of the past decade that led to today`s incredibly fragile and challenging international environment. The financial crisis, the migration crisis, Brexit, terrorist attacks, a climate emergency, a pandemic and not least the return of war on European soil pushed us to live in the most difficult time since WWII. “We live in a multipolar, but not a multilateral world today”, said Rector Mogherini. The framework for multilateral cooperation is no longer functional and following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is our duty to rethink and rebuild the credibility of our multilateral system. 


In this context, Rector Mogherini reminded the audience of the origins of the European Union: “Yes, it is a peace project, but it started with something very small and pragmatic (and not very romantic): coal and steel”. She noted that maybe it might be useful to retain that for the international world: “If you share an economic interest, waging war becomes undesirable. In our history, international cooperation has worked”, she remarked. “If you look at it objectively, Europe is the place to be in the world. Even in a fragmented framework, we could try to rebuild cooperation. And this could be the role of EU diplomacy in the new geopolitics.” 


While many commentators regularly criticize the actions and reactions of the Union when facing diverse crises, Rector Mogherini highlighted how crises (Brexit, COVID, the war in Ukraine, etc) have also brought good things: “Certain taboos about the scope of the EU have been broken”. During the COVID crisis, the EU used its budget for the first time to borrow money on the capital market, while the Ukraine war has seen increased military assistance to a state that is not part of the Union though the use of an instrument -European Peace Facility- designed for other purposes initially. Lastly, Brexit has shown the global importance of the EU in spite its complexities, instead of inspiring other countries to leave the community as well. It is, after all, the prospect of joining the EU that has inspired democratic reforms in a lot of Southern and Eastern European countries. The students could sense that Rector Mogherini is a true European at heart!  


The lecture had a lively Q&A session, where students addressed our guest on issues concerning EU enlargement, the transatlantic relationship, China, geopolitical and geo-economic competition, among others.  


Lastly, in her current capacity as the Rector of the College of Europe, Mogherini introduced the new scholarship scheme from the Dutch government for studying at the College and clarified that “The only thing you need is a solid background knowledge on the European Union for the selection interviews and strong academic achievements.”  


All in all, the afternoon was very insightful for the students from PPE, Political Science and Law. The lecture probably awakened dreams in some students that maybe, in a few years, they might meet Federica Mogherini again as their Rector.