Ambassadors from the European Union met with Delaware’s leaders up and down the state on Monday, including two panels hosted at the University of Delaware.
The first panel was on Transatlantic Relations and the Role of Higher Education, and the second — following a tour of Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center — on Partnerships in Sustainability, Supply Chains & Manufacturing to combat the spread of COVID-19.
In the first discussion, UD President Dennis Assanis emphasized the importance of study abroad experiences in education and said that there are, finally, UD students studying abroad again this fall.
“An important role that education can play is bringing people together for a free exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of respect and civility, and we all know that is sorely needed today,” President Assanis said. “There is certainly no shortage of disparities and inequalities in our world today and I truly believe that higher education institutions, on both sides of the Atlantic, can play a critical role in helping to close those gaps.”
The panel discussed the importance of strengthening higher education in developing countries as well. E.U. Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis said that education can be a tool in fighting terrorism.
“The last thing that a terrorist wants is an empowered society,” he said. “They want societies with big black holes of power that they can fill it with their hatred and violence. So, if you want to fight terrorism, educate girls and boys.”
The growing threat of climate change was a recurring topic on the panel, particularly the likelihood that China’s president, Xi Jinping, will not attend the COP26 climate summit in Scotland in November.
“The ways in which China is receding from global leadership in climate creates a critical moment of opportunity for the United States and the European Union to demonstrate partnership in these areas,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
Sen. Coons added that the partnership between the U.S. and the E.U. is the most critical it has ever been since the E.U. was first formed. He listed essential pillars of the relationship: combating climate change, recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, laying the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive global economy, and coming together to write the rules of trade in the 21st century.
Supply chain crisis
The second panel discussed the shortage in the international supply chain. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer said that not only is the county, like the rest of the state, the country, and the world, facing a supply chain crisis, but he is seeing a labor shortage crisis as well.
“We’re having huge challenges hiring public servants in the state, but that is the bad news,” he said. “The good news is I believe New Castle County is very well positioned to ultimately take advantage of the new world.”
Mr. Meyer noted the transformation of the old Chrysler plant on Star Campus that was transformed to employ thousands of people and educate the next generation. A few weeks ago, he said the county opened the second largest commercial building in the U.S. at the former General Motors plant in Wilmington.
Many panelists discussed how vaccination rates are a key part in getting things back to normal. The panel also mentioned that recovery from the pandemic has been hindered by vaccine skepticism. Daniel Mulhall, ambassador of Ireland to the U.S., said that Ireland’s adult population is 92% vaccinated, due to a high level of social cohesion in the country.
“There’s been a consensus across the board from all the political parties that we’ve got to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the pandemic,” he said. “Our lockdown was pretty severe so I think people were really keen to escape from the lockdown, and there is no respectable public figure who is giving any comfort to the anti-vaccine community.”
Ireland’s domestic economy was very badly hit during the pandemic according to Mr. Mulhall, but still grew by about 2% overall due to increased exportation of pharmaceutical products and medical technology.
Ambassador of Italy to the U.S., Mariangela Zappia, said that Italy’s economy is growing at record numbers and 85% of the population is vaccinated.
“This shows that leadership and strong measures can in fact bring us to a much better situation and get us to a point where we can look at the future with optimism,” she said. “The first priority is that we need to beat the pandemic, but also to prepare for the next one.”