PLENARY SPEAKER: ANNA DIAMANTOPOULOU
Anna Diamantopoulou is the President of DIKTIO- Network for Reform in Greece and Europe, an Athens-based think tank. A Civil Engineer by training with graduate studies in Regional Development, Anna Diamantopoulou has been a member of the Greek Parliament for 11 years. In 1999 she was appointed as European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (1999-2004).
In 2009 she served as Minister of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs until March of 2012, and consequently as the Minister of Development, Competitiveness and Shipping until May 2012.
Anna Diamantopoulou is active in European affairs. She is Presidium Member of the “Friends of Europe”, the Brussels-based think tank exploring thinking on the future of the EU, and a Steering Committee Member of “Notre Europe-Jacques Delors Institute” the Paris-based think tank dedicated to European integration and unity. She has also served as the Chairperson of the Party of European Socialists’ Forum on the European Dimension of New Social Europe.
She has served as a Fisher Family Fellow (2012) of the Harvard Kennedy School lecturing on European Affairs, and as a Distinguished Scholar at Singapore’s Lee Kuan School of Public Policy (2015). Currently, she serves as Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy.
“Education as the Connecting Virtue Between Nations and People”
European Union Member States and the U.S. belong to what is commonly referred to as the “Western World.” They share values and ideals rooted in freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law: These values and ideals with their respective institutions are the result of century long processes on the European continent and of innovative developments in America. A continuous osmosis, interaction and synergy occurring in all fields– literature, philosophy, art, science, business—points to the need to be proficient and have a grasp of what happens on both sides of the Atlantic.
Often young Americans may view Europe as a large entertainment and historical park including the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, the Acropolis, Big Ben or a soccer stadium. Similarly, European youth identify the USA with Facebook, Hollywood and famous rock stars. This may be entertaining but certainly not sufficient at all.
It is an indispensable yet complex task to provide a well-rounded education for young Americans visiting Europe to study. Clearly, beyond the subject of their studies, it is as vital that they understand the way institutions in their host country work along with the supranational institutions of the European Union. Their education in those matters is not merely confined to describing government bodies, processes and the ensuing balance of power. Young Americans need to comprehend the simultaneous function of individual nation states in parallel with the collective entity that the EU represents.
The fundamental difference is that the U.S. has been founded and represents a united and single nation comprised of citizens of different ethnic origins. A true “melting pot.” In contrast, the EU is a union of nation states whereby citizens predominantly maintain their national identity while for the past 50+ years efforts to create a common European one have met with limited success.
Development of an educational program to help American students understand the complexities in the evolution of the European project requires the efforts and cooperation of a multiplicity of fields. Such an all-inclusive program covers history, culture, state-institutional evolution and the specific historical relationship between a student’s host country and the U.S.
That way, American students will be exposed to different educational systems and cultural contexts that have yielded important achievements across various fields. As importantly, they will be in a position to actively contribute as citizens of tomorrow to the enrichment and strengthening of political, economic and cultural ties between the EU and the U.S.
The Europe-U.S. relationship is a determining factor for the future of peace, stability, and growth. This is especially so in our challenging times where the financial and refugee crises disrupt large parts of our world, not only for states sharing common borders, but also with implications and ensuing risks for the western world in its entirety.