Bruges 26/10/2011

The President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, on the occasion of his visit at the College of Europe in Bruges has answered the questions of some students for their multi-media project.

The President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, on the occasion of his visit at the College of Europe in Bruges has answered the questions of some students for their multi-media project. This is the text of the conversation

Question: President Napolitano, within the context of the global economic crisis and particularly, looking closely at the European job-market, how important are according to you, research and post-graduate education like, for instance, the one pursued by the College of Europe?

Answer: Research and post-graduate education institutes - especially if they are well-renewed and prestigious as for College of Europe - are fundamentally important for our economic and social model. Europe needs to look forwards to the future and to promote a more balanced growth, based on knowledge and on-going education. We pay today the Lisbon Strategy's failure, strategy which was launched in 2000 aiming at making Europe the most competitive economy in short time, by focusing on innovation and research. That strategy was born to cope with the high unemployment rate, especially concerning the youth-sector, in many European countries. Today we do not have to repeat the same error. Succesfull outcomes in those European countries which invested mostly in research and education show that supporting these areas is surely the way to follow.

: Is our Country undertaking the necessary measures to guaranteeing a post-university formation of excellence, such the one offered by this Institution?

Answer: Italy is currently engaged in a process of reform of its system of research, whose impact would be visible in the long term. I would like to repeat to you what already stated in many occasions: Even in a context of economic sacrifices, priorities for the future of our Country should be established. And no one can doubt that studying is part of them. I am glad to recall in my memory, lastly, the European University Institute set in Fiesole (Florence), which is not so different from the College of Europe. I know well how many European Civil Servants have been formed in such Institutions. Their education is characterised by rigorous professionalism and absolute independence, as well as by the sense of limit and respect of the decision-making public sphere. These are essential conditions for the authoritativeness and effectiveness that European administrations shall maintain and enhance.

: Speaking about the sadly well-known "brain-drain" problem, what is Your opinion as regards the Italian students who decided to study abroad, and in particular, according to You, is getting educated abroad an added value to the education we receive in Italy, or is this a necessary/required step to avoid the unemployment?

Answer: I stronly believe in the importance of studying abroad. Indeed, we should get more and more used to the idea of the European Research Space, where students, researchers and professors can circulate and we should also commit to its full creation. This is the future, the Europe of the youth, but at the same time the deepest richness of Europe its given by its history. Of course we should also act in order to ensure full mobility and offer actual opportunities. I also consider very important to enhance the already existing programmes about which perhaps not enough publicity is made, such as the European programme to support research or the one which is considered the the EU's "flagship programme" par excellence, the Erasmus programme, to whom it is fair to grant the adequate amount of resources also given its symbolic value. In addition: it is likewise important that also the Italian university would be able to attract people from abroad. It implies quite a few organization's efforts but it is more and more essential.

: Mr President, taking into account the moment of economic-financial crisis and the evident lack of leadership at EU level, what is your opinion about the future of the project of European integration? In other terms, when the existence of the €uro seems endangered and the European Union has to face increasingly competitive international actors, does it make sense continuing to believe in (and study) the process of European integration?

Answer: Not only, we also shall regain the pride of being European. And let me say that: I have known, with great pleasure, that the EU institutions have announced that next year will be the "European year for intergenerational solidarity". I hope that important initiatives will emerge, even under the initiative of our Country. Here, I wish that intergenerational solidarity would inspire the decisions which are to be taken in these hours. Such decisions should provide the European Union with better instruments, able to deal with the difficult economic situation, but also represent the North Star guiding the difficult decisions to be taken by the individual Member States. I can add that the Community was born because of intergenerational solidarity. And that's why it exists nowadays.