OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. opened the event, welcoming Lambrinidis and acknowledging the importance of his role at a time of such grave danger to global stability.
“We’re incredibly honored to host E.U. Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis,” Harroz said. “At OU, we’re focused on preparing our students to live a life of success, meaning, service and positive impact, and that necessarily means that we provide chances for them to understand the world around them in a way that otherwise they wouldn’t have come to learn. Today’s talk is precisely the type of opportunity we want to provide our students. Given the state of the war in Ukraine and the E.U. and U.S. response to the Russian invasion, Ambassador Lambrinidis’ visit couldn’t be timelier. To have the opportunity to hear from him and have him shed light on democracy and leadership in a rapidly changing world is an immense privilege.”
During his talk, Lambrinidis discussed the need for the E.U. to continue to protect its values of democracy, rule of law and concern for the social dimension of a capitalist economy. He expressed confidence that wide-ranging economic sanctions imposed on Russia, though costly to European economies as well, are having a significant impact.
“While there has been no expectation that sanctions would bring the conflict to an end, Russia will pay a lasting economic and political price for its threat to destroy the global legal order and replace it with ‘might makes right’ rule,” he said.
Lambrinidis cited the need for deeper U.S.-E.U. energy cooperation to help phase out the European dependence on Russian oil as well as the E.U.’s commitment to massive investments in a green economy that will pay huge dividends in the years ahead. He explained that even as Ukraine embarks on an application for E.U. membership, it is already part of the E.U. family and has benefited from large E.U. investments through its Association Agreement. Most notable among these investments is the connection of Ukraine to the E.U. electricity grid, ending its energy dependence on Russia.
When asked about the future reliability of the U.S.-E.U. partnership, Lambrinidis emphasized that the importance and benefits of the relationship far exceed areas of contention. With 130 students from 21 different E.U. countries studying at OU during the 2021-2022 academic year, the value of the partnership is especially evident at OU.
“This was an extremely valuable event for our students and for the entire OU campus,” said Mitchell Smith, director of the OU European Union Center and associate dean for Academic Affairs in the David L. Boren College of International Studies. “Ambassador Lambrinidis shared inspiring lessons from his career experience as well as insights from his position as a diplomat whose role is pivotal to addressing a dangerous and immediate challenge to global security. It was productive to hear from the ambassador at a time when many of us worry about the fate of democracy and the durability of the U.S.-E.U. relationship.”
Lambrinidis also spoke directly to students, encouraging them to commit to excellence and understand their motive for seeking a particular career path. He said continually looking ahead to the next career move and treating each position as no more than a stepping-stone to the next is a recipe for anxiety and dissatisfaction. To underscore this idea, he reflected on his own experience leaving the practice of law in Washington, D.C., and moving into a career of public service and diplomacy with a particular focus on human rights and protecting democracy and freedom.
“Being able to hear first-hand from Ambassador Lambrinidis about topics of extreme significance and relevance such as the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the importance of climate transition and the potential future developments of the European Union, was an enriching opportunity that compliments and builds upon the academic knowledge learned in class,” said Ismael Carmona Casado, a senior majoring in international and area studies and supply chain management.
Lambrinidis has served as E.U. ambassador to the United States since March 1, 2019. Born in Athens, Greece, he earned his B.A. in economics and political science from Amherst College and his J.D. from Yale Law School. He has served in many distinguished political and diplomatic roles, including as a member of the European Parliament from Greece, vice president of the European Parliament, foreign affairs minister of Greece, and European Union special representative for human rights.