The European Ambassador to the United States, Joao Vale de Almeida, spoke to an overflowing crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members at West Virginia University on April 22 about the connections between the United States and the European Union.
Ambassador Vale de Almeida's visit was an unanticipated and welcomed addition to the College of Business and Economics Distinguished Speaker Series, which features highly successful individuals in business, academia and government.
The Ambassador brought with him his unique insight on international relations. The ramifications of an increasingly global society, which he discussed in his lecture, are of particular importance to the students who will soon enter and operate within a competitive global marketplace. He referenced the recent financial crisis to illustrate that economies are deeply interconnected.
"A nuclear accident in Japan can make life very difficult for companies around the world. A subprime crisis in California can trigger a world financial crisis. Although Greece is a relatively small economy, it can still rock the markets. So we've learned the hard way that we are all interdependent," he said.
Ambassador Vale de Almeida set aside extra time for audience questions. Students asked probing questions in regard to the EU's fiscal and monetary policies, unease in Russia and the Ukraine, and areas where the U.S. and EU tend to disagree.
One of the first questions he answered was in regard to the monetary policy and fiscal policies of the EU. Although the entire Union operates under one monetary policy, they do not have a single fiscal policy – each country can decide on its own. This weakness led to a difficult situation for the EU from 2009-2012, he said.
"We accept these weaknesses. What I want you to accept in return is that we did everything we could to get out of it. And we are getting out of it," he answered. "Austerity measures were necessary. They were painful, but they are proving that they were the right thing to do. Countries are coming back to growth, the interests rates are going down."
Although he said the European Union is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Ambassador Vale de Almeida stressed that there was still much more to do.
"It's not over, and we should not be complacent," he said. "We are trying to attack the most urgent cases of fiscal imbalance and introduce structural reform. So when we get out of this, we will be stronger."
Ambassador Vale de Almeida's appearance in the B&E Distinguished Speaker Series was a precursor to his visit with West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in Charleston, W.Va. He also met with state economic development officials to discuss ways to improve the state's financial position globally. Prior to his departure for Charleston from Morgantown, the Ambassador met with WVU President E. Gordon Gee.
You can watch the full content of Almeida's speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amaqCWXEYHg