G-20 EXTRA ~ EC President Barroso Visits University of Pittsburgh

Amelia Mathias, Pitt Law '11, attended a speech given by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday...



Accompanied by his wife, Margarita, and staff, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso came to the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday to accept an honorary doctorate of Public and International Affairs from Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Barroso then gave a short lecture, speaking before an assembly of Pitt students, faculty, and press in Alumni Hall. He also accepted questions from students and press in a forum moderated by Nordenberg Professor Alberta Sbragia.

Barroso focused on the need to continue to build important relationships between the European Union and the United States, and likened the process to the revitalization of Pittsburgh through its cultivation and adoption of new technologies. He praised Pittsburgh for its adaptation and said that the world could draw lessons and inspiration from "the most livable city."

The Commissioner moved on by speaking of the future of the European Union. While acknowledging that the European Union awaits the passing of the Lisbon Treaty (up for the vote in an Irish referendum in just a few weeks) he also praised the EU's commitment to foreign aid and police deployment throughout the world. He frankly noted that the foreign affairs discourse seems to be moving toward a vision of the world as a dualism between China and the United States, but he also refused to let this be the last word on the matter. Somewhat jarringly, he commented, "The world doesn't need Europe," he said, "but Europe has something to offer." If the world is open to that discussion, he believes that the 21st century could become "The Century of Europe."

Turning his attention to the most pressing matters of the G20, Barroso spoke about the disarray of the world financial system and also the importance of combating climate change. Speaking strongly about the need for quick, firm reform of financial markets, he admitted that there had been moral as well as financial failings by the world's financial leaders that led to the financial crisis that began in 2008. While reform will not happen quickly, he chalked up that delay to the price of democracy, and seemed confident that it would happen eventually.

Speaking about climate change, he called the problem a "challenge without borders." He said that even if the European Union and the United States dropped their emission levels to nothing, climate change would continue at a rampant pace, and so developing countries must accept their role and do what they can, instead of blaming the problem on developed nations. He expressed optimism that the December meeting in Copenhagen could amount to a real climate change agreement with real subsequent measures being taken, naysaying what the press has been anticipating in the months leading up to that meeting.

Ultimately, Barroso stopped short of expressing optimism for the future of the European Union and the world. The Lisbon Treaty must still be passed, the financial problems of the world must still be resolved, something must be done about climate change. Yet with every bridge, the European Union and the United States, along with the rest of the world, get a little bit closer to mending these problems.

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