President Michael D. Higgins launches new centre at the School of Politics and International Relations

UCD was honoured to welcome President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina to the Sutherland School of Law on 28 March, 2019. President Higgins gave the inaugural lecture to launch the new Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in the New Political Economy of Europe.

The Dublin European Institute based at SPIRe has been awarded this prestigious Jean Monnet grant by the European Commission to become a Centre of Excellence in the New Political Economy of Europe. The project is titled "The New Political Economy of Europe: Re-engaging the Street". It will be led by Dr Aidan Regan. The role of the Centre is to promote understanding of the new political and economic realities of the European Union, and to widely disseminate the fruits of research to a wider audience. 

In  his speech to many students, staff and members of the public, President Michael D Higgins has called for a “new mind for Europe” to strengthen social cohesion between EU member states, warning European unity is in danger due to the Union's handling of the economy. 

Professor Colin Scott, Dr Aidan Regan Sabina Higgins, President Higgins and European Governance Masters students Marek Sustak, Janina Kopfmuller, Andrea Briones, Lauren Nicole Laurenceau, and Sophia Benzmann. Photo by Nick Bradshaw.

President Higgins said the “narrow version of an economic union” adopted by the EU had left social, economic and class divides palpable across Europe.

“If we now question why some seek solace in the simplistic or the bombastic – or, indeed, seem captured by apathy – we must acknowledge that for too long they, the publics, have been presented with too few meaningful alternatives," he said.

President and Sabina Higgins with Centre PhD students Jelena Radakovic and Jorge Tamames. Photo by Nick  Bradshaw.

“Social cohesion is fracturing as inequalities in wealth, power and income are deepening, as labour becomes more precarious and our societies become increasingly divided between what is often lazily described as ‘the lucky’ and the ‘left out’.

“Within the European Union, cohesion between the member states has also declined,” he said, as the EU has been “divided by a common, one-size-fits-all macroeconomic policy framework which pits creditor against debtor, and those with trade surpluses against those without.”

President Higgins warned the future of European Union was becoming "a matter of dispute and often ill-tempered debate”.

“In the ongoing and lingering shadow of Brexit and of social forces which have given rise to so much doubt across Europe, the challenges of the next decade simply cannot be met with a re-issuing of an invitation to a new generation of, and revamped version, of the old orthodoxies,” he added.

President Higgins with Dr Aidan Regan, Director of the new Centre

Jean Monnet, who the Centre of Excellence is named after, is considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union, and the various centres of excellence across the EU are designed to foster integration and cooperation between member states. The new Centre will sit within the UCD School of Politics and International Relations.

Watch the video:

The Centre's website can be viewed here.