Summary | Address by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani

The United States and Europe Must Stand Together to Better Defend Our Shared Values

European Parliament President 

Antonio Tajani


On Thursday, February 22nd, the World Leaders Forum and the Center on Global Economic Governance at Columbia University hosted European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as part of the Ambassador Donald and Vera Blinken Lecture Series. Held at the Casa Italiana, Mr. Tajani’s visit to the university came a day after the president visited US congressional leaders and government officials in Washington D.C.

The welcome and introduction to Tajani’s discourse, titled ‘The Unites States and Europe Must Stand Together to Better Defend our Values” was presented by Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University and moderated by Jan Svejnar, James T. Shotwell Professor of Global Political Economy and Director of the Center on Global Economic Governance.

As Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger noted, Tajani’s visit and discourse on values came at a critical juncture in global affairs during which the European Union has witnessed continued political turmoil, economic challenges, a migration crisis that has spurred a populist backlash, and a host of issues that have origins before Tajani’s presidency and have come to define his tenure and focus.

Tajani's address emphasized the need for shared values, including freedom, democracy and human rights, to work together in better ways to promote inclusive economic growth, peace and stability around the world. His speech included references to a variety of political, economic and social problems of regional and global significance. On democracy and political stability, he commented that the priority was not to choose the next president of Venezuela but to defend the freedom of the nation’s citizens and ensure their basic rights, also giving a nod to the political crisis in Nicaragua. On Israel and Palestine, he advocated for “two states living in peace” and emphasized the importance of friendship and dialogue between individuals and countries of different faiths.

On global economic policy, the European leader advocated for the importance of free markets and fair competition. These comments come during a backdrop of continued trade tensions between the United States and China, a rising power with growing political and economic influence around the world. Although trade between the EU and China has flourished over the years, European governments have been vocal of the need to level the playing field.

The European Parliament President’s most salient remarks came during his discussion of Africa, a continent that continues to suffer from extreme poverty, poor economic growth, civil war, terrorism and climate change. While he acknowledged the importance of trade and business with Africa, he noted that the European Union and other great global powers had a responsibility to invest for a stronger Africa, supporting new joint ventures with African governments and firms. Referencing China’s pledge to provide $60 billion dollars in aid to Africa and China’s military outpost in Djibouti, he warned of misguided business and military ventures in the region which had the potential to devolve into “new colonialism.” The leader’s caution against misguided policy in Africa comes in light of his administration’s pledge to invest up to $50 billion dollars in the continent, a similar plan which in Germany has been pushed as the ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa, a broad-sweeping initiative that could generate regional growth and indirectly stem the tide of migration that has sparked populist backlash in recent years. In discussing Africa, however, the EP President also gave a nod to his partners in Europe and the need for all members of the EU to come together, referencing France and Italy’s political rivalry in Libya.

Tajani was most optimistic when talking of the importance of supporting today’s youth in their capacity for new leadership and their adoption of progressive values for a more peaceful, stable and sustainable world. Promoting technological growth and advances in research, medicine and public policy, he commented, were “resources to humanity” and leading factors for a progressive global agenda that helped those left behind by globalization.

When asked about the difference between European and American values, Tajani sought to only emphasize the cross Atlantic bond that has been the hallmark of continued growth for both regions in the post-war era, underscoring the significance of the similarities and shared values between the United States and Europe as the main drivers of a prosperous future.

The event was cosponsored by the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and the European Institute.


This event was part of The Ambassador Donald and Vera Blinken Lecture Series on Global Governance, which focuses on the future of European politics, economics, and foreign relations. Donald Blinken has made a lasting impact in fields ranging from public service, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 1994 to 1998, to investment banking, education, and the arts throughout his estimable career. 


-Sergio A. Galeano, SIPA ‘20