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Open letter of support to Ms. Federica Mogherini, candidate for the position of the Rector of the College of Europe

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Disclaimer: This open letter is the initiative of several College of Europe alumni


We, the undersigned, express our support to Ms. Federica Mogherini, who served as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (HRVP) 2014-2019, as the next Rector of the College of Europe, postgraduate educational institution focussed on European studies and gathering students from the European Union, the Neighbourhood and the world. This initiative is particularly motivated by disinformation and lack of information on the selection process that became available in public space in the past weeks, regarding Ms. Mogherini’s candidacy.

This letter calls for the College of Europe to take fully into account the necessary qualities and values of the candidate for this top position, that are reflected by the selection criteria in broader interpretation. The selection criteria should not be considered as rigid check-box-style rules that inhibit the selection process. Similar to any candidate selection process, a failure to adopt a holistic assessment of the candidate would lead to losing the best candidate that the College needs and deserves in time of multi-faceted global crises that we find ourselves in. The College of Europe has been and should continue to embody qualities of a progressive institution adapting to needs and changes. Therefore, having an objective, flexible and open-minded approach is welcome and demonstrates the open-mindedness characteristic for the College of Europe as an educational institution.

Given the long-standing relationship between the College and the EU institutions, Ms. Mogherini’s contribution to development of the European Union external policy and the legacy she left for the role of HRVP within the EU system are the key proof of her high-qualifications for the position in question. The College of Europe offers much more than a ‘traditional’ Master’s degree to its students, and is attended by a small, carefully selected group of students who usually already hold a Master’s degree in relatable disciplines. The students are usually interested in the European Union, but also largely seek to complement their theoretical knowledge with skills and prepare for the job market. The study experience is as much academic as it is practical, and also leaves the students connected through a network (of alumni). The brand of the College is what arguably attracts its students the most, many with a view to build a career in the EU institutions.

European Commission’s Decision of 22 April 2020 (C(2020) 9013 final) offers clarification that there is no conflict of interest from the perspective of the European Commission on the candidacy of Ms. Mogherini for the position of Rector of the College of Europe. Furthermore, the decision offers safeguards and limitations which are to ensure independent work of Ms. Mogherini, may she be selected to serve in the position in question. This decision came at the initiative of the College of Europe’s request for interpretation of the applicable EU rules and procedures, and by responding to this request the European Commission does not favour any of the candidates.

Moreover, Ms. Mogherini has proven merits and management abilities during her HRVP mandate, giving a successful new interpretation to the role of HRVP. She has been an inspiration for generations of students and (young) professionals involved in EU affairs, and further afield. She has been a text-book example of diplomatic demeanour, collaborative leadership and effective management. She stood through her role as HRVP for the values that College of Europe promotes, including multilateralism and diplomatic solutions to crises. She has left a lasting legacy in Europe and much beyond.

Ms. Mogherini would hence beyond doubt bring her rich experience, contacts and visibility to the College of Europe, contributing to recognition of the institution at the European and global levels. Moreover, she would be the first Rector of the College who is a female mid-career professional, challenging the stereotypes. This is to serve for the benefit of current and future students at the College of Europe, academic staff, and many partners of the institution. Among others, the practical skills aspect of the education that the College offers could be largely expanded due to her engagement, as well as executive education in the field of EU studies offered to governmental and non-governmental actors.

Therefore, we strongly believe that the new Rector of the College of Europe, as educational institution tightly related to the European integration project itself, should not only be representative of the reputation, image, recognition and visibility that the College of Europe deserves, but should be the embodiment of the qualities that can provide strategic and visionary leadership for the institution in the years ahead, which will be largely influenced by the multi-faceted crises that we now find ourselves in. And the times of crises are exactly what Ms. Mogherini has helped the EU through during her HRVP mandate.

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