The Economic Situation in the European Union

Date: 

Thursday, April 12, 2012, 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Wiener Auditorium, Taubman Building, HKS

Romano ProdiRomano Prodi, Professor-at-Large, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, Former Italian Prime Minister and President of the European Commission

About the Seminar
The economic and financial difficulties of Europe are well known. Big deficits and public debts in some of its member states, and a consequent need of fiscal austerity in a situation of slow growth and recession, might potentially contribute to the deterioration of the overall economic situation. While some European countries are going to face further difficulties, on average European Union member states have better deficits and public debts than the United States.

In this seminar, Romano Prodi will argue that the reason why financial markets have punished only European economies lies in the division that existed within Europe on what to do in Greece. Indeed Greece was a small problem that turned big only because of the indecisiveness of EURO-area member states. No European state has, however, interests in destroying the common currency. Although the European economic and financial situation is still difficult and is likely to be difficult in the short term, Prodi will argue that the EU will remain one of the most important pillars of international economics and the Euro will overcome this difficult period.

About the Speaker
Prodi was born in Scandiano, Italy, in 1939. He received his law degree at the Catholic University of Milan and completed postgraduate work at the London School of Economics. Prodi began his academic career at the University of Bologna in 1963, where he served as assistant in political economics and professor of industrial organization and industrial policy until 1999. He has also held research and teaching positions at the Lombard Institute of Economic and Social Studies, Stanford Research Institute, Free University of Trento, and Harvard University.

In 1981, Prodi founded Nomisma, the largest Italian institute of economic studies, whose scientific committee he chaired until 1995. During his academic and institutional career, Prodi has received several prestigious awards and holds numerous honorary degrees from universities around the world, including a Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from Brown, conferred in 1999. Prodi entered politics in 1978, when he was appointed the Italian minister of industry. From 1982 to 1989, he served as chairman of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI), at the time Italy’s largest holding company. Under his chairmanship, IRI underwent a far-reaching reorganization, embarking on a process of change and preparing its subsidiaries for privatization. Prodi was called back to the helm of IRI in May 1993 and successfully saw through the privatization of large companies such as Credito Italiano and Banca Commerciale Italiana.

In 1995, Prodi founded the Ulivo – “The Olive Tree” – the center-left coalition, which made him its candidate for prime minister in the 1996 elections. Ulivo won the general elections that year, and the Prodi government remained in office until 1998. One of its achievements was to secure Italy’s place among the first countries to adopt the euro.

In 1999, Prodi was appointed president of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union. During his presidency, the euro was successfully introduced; the Union was enlarged by 10 new countries from central, eastern, and southern Europe; and the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe was signed. He served until 2005. In the 2006 parliamentary elections in Italy, Prodi again led the center-left coalition to victory, and again became prime minister, serving until May 8, 2008.

Prodi is currently president of the Foundation for Worldwide Cooperation and chairman of the UN-AU Panel for Peacekeeping in Africa. In 2009, Brown University appointed him professor-at-large for a five-year term. He is based at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies.