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BIPR | Robert A. Mundell Global Risk Annual Lecture
Robert A. Mundell Global Risk Annual Lecture

October 19, 2020 - 18:30

Romano Prodi, Former President of the European Commission (1999-2004); Former Prime Minister of Italy (1996-1998; 2006-2008)

Event Recap

Over two and a half decades at the height of political power, Professor Romano Prodi has seen his share of challenges facing Europe. So it is particularly remarkable if a statesman of his stature describes the decisions taken in Europe in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic as unprecedented.

On October 19th, SAIS Europe had the honor of hosting Professor Prodi to deliver the annual Robert A. Mundell Global Risk Lecture. Few are better positioned to deliver a lecture on the challenges facing Europe in an increasingly volatile world than Professor Romano Prodi. Over the past two and a half decades he has served twice as the Prime Minister of Italy as well as the President of the European Commission. Not only was his leadership key for ensuring Italy’s membership in the Eurozone, as Commission President he also presided over the accession of ten new states to the European Union. Moderated by Professor Erik Jones, Professor Prodi delivered a broad overview of the political shifts taking place around the world as well as the challenges the European Union will have to contend with in the coming years.

For Professor Prodi the most significant development of the past months is the EU’s agreement on a joint €750 billion recovery fund, which he considered an unprecedented achievement. “Last time I came here I was very pessimistic about Europe,” Professor Prodi confided to the audience. However, “since July, we have had the beginning of a policy solidarity in Europe,” he said. The most important reasons for this new-found solidarity was the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had severe impact on the economies of every European member state. Additionally, the accelerating competition between China and the United States, particularly in the field of big data, as well as the increased uncertainty over America’s protection of Europe has intensified the need for European economies to work closer together. All of this, Prodi noted, would not have been possible if the UK still was a member of the European Union.

While a new air of solidarity has taken hold in the European Union, the unanimity requirement in the European Council is continuing to hamper the EU‘s effectiveness, Professor Prodi said. Still, he expects the EU to gain further importance, particularly in the field of carbon and technology taxation.

In all this, the goals for the EU remain clear: promoting the social, economic and territorial cohesion of Europe, strengthening economic and social policies, mitigating the social aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic and supporting the green and digital transition.

Turning to political developments outside of Europe, Professor Prodi highlighted the importance of the upcoming US elections to the implementation of Europe’s political agenda. A possible Biden administration would – in contrast to President Trump – neither treat the EU as a dangerous foe nor try to divide Europe. For the EU-China relationship too, the result of the US presidential election will be critical. China is continuing its efforts to divide Europe, a function of China‘s goal of separating Europe from the United States.

Looking to the future developments in the global economy, Professor Prodi does not see an end to globalization. For that, he noted, the economic interests of the US and China are too interconnected. However, a trend toward reshoring and greater protectionism in the field of technology will accelerate, the former Italian Prime Minister suggested.

Robert A. Mundell Global Risk Annual Lecture - A Challenge for the Next Generation
Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Risk Conference

hosted by Professor Erik Jones

Romano Prodi
Former President of the European Commission (1999-2004); Former Prime Minister of Italy (1996-1998; 2006-2008)

Robert A. Mundell was a member of the Johns Hopkins SAIS international economics faculty and taught at SAIS Europe for four years, during the period 1959-2001. Much of his pioneering work in monetary dynamics and optimum currency areas, which resulted in his Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1999, was conducted during his time in Bologna. Professor Mundell plans to return to SAIS Europe for this special occasion.

This event is the part of the annual three-part series of the Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Risk Conference, intended for a non-technical audience. The Conference aims to engage policy and professional communities with scholarship emerging from the school's Master of Arts in Global Risk.


Romano Prodi is currently the Robert Abernethy Professor of the Practice at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe, President of the Foundation for Worldwide Cooperation, and Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Previously he was Chairman of the United Nations-African Union High-level Panel for Peacekeeping in Africa (2008-2014) and professor at CEIBS (China Europe International Business School) in Shanghai, where he is currently a Member of the Board. Professor Prodi first entered politics in 1978, when he was appointed the Italian Minister of Industry. In 1995 he founded the "Olive Tree" center-left coalition. The coalition won the 1996 election, and Prodi was appointed Prime Minister and remained in office until October 1998. The measures introduced by his Cabinet enabled Italy to meet the Maastricht criteria for joining the Eurozone. From 1999 to 2005, Prodi served as President of the European Commission. During his presidency, the euro was successfully introduced; the Union was enlarged by 10 countries from central, eastern and southern Europe; and the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe was signed. 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. From October 2012 to January 2014 he served as the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the Sahel. Prodi received his law degree at the Catholic University of Milan and completed postgraduate work at the London School of Economics. He has held research and teaching positions at the University of Bologna, the Lombard Institute of Economic and Social Studies, Stanford Research Institute, the Free University of Trento, Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe, Harvard University and Brown University.
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