The EU in Focus: Why Should the European Union Matter to Americans?

By Nicoleta Nichifor, NYU Florence student

Although I am not an American, the question “Why should the European Union matter to Americans?” has triggered my interest and curiosity. I am a student at NYU Abu Dhabi, majoring in political science and interested in international and regional organizations. Studying at NYU Florence for a semester has been a wonderful learning experience, especially when learning about the European Union through my courses and the workshops of The EU in Focus series, which includes Professor Weiler’s talk.

One interesting part of this talk was that in addition to providing information about the EU (its decision-making process, internal structure, institutions, and legislation), it also uncovered the complex relations that the EU establishes with other important global powers such as the United States.

The main points that I took away are that the EU is a giant economic power and trade with the EU is very important to the U.S. (The EU is the 4th biggest export market for the U.S.).  In addition to their economic ties, the EU collaborates with the U.S. and the international community to apply “soft power” to international  crises, an area where the EU excels. For instance, the EU is currently applying economic sanctions to Russia in response to Russia’s  annexation of the Crimea, supporting international efforts. I was curious to find out more about EU-Russian relations and Professor Weiler expanded on this topic. It was surprising to find out that the EU and Russia face almost the same negative economic consequences as a result of imposing sanctions.

This engaging talk re-emphasized the idea of the inter-connectivity that exists in our global world. It added another layer of complexity to my understanding of international relations. It was a great honor to learn from Professor Weiler and be able to ask questions. Through such events I feel that my experience at NYU Florence turns into a unique and engaging process of learning!

Inside the Imma Vitelli Writing Workshop

By Erica Garbarini, NYU Florence student

Eleven students sit around a table, looking towards and listening to a true veteran in the writing world. Imma Vitelli greets us warmly as we nervously glance around the room and take out our “most valuable possession” we were instructed to bring. You can tell we are aspiring writers by the clear, precise way we speak. As we placed our favorite books, irreplaceable necklaces, and journals on the table, we placed our hearts on our sleeves. We were ready to write. Imma begins the round table discussion by prompting the quintessential “I’m Erica from California” and “Well, I’m Jessie from New York” introductions. This was all we knew about the other ten girls around the table before we were asked to explain our most important possessions and, thus, our most valuable people, memories, and places. “This is an exercise in brutal empathy” Imma explained. Empathy is the divide between a good journalist and a great, powerful journalist.

As the workshop progressed, Imma not only gave us fantastic writing advice, but she was actively helping each student understand exactly why their possession is so essential to their being. Imma believes that we must truly know ourselves (why we like what we like, why we hate what we hate, why we do what do) to develop an honest voice in our writing, to advance from good to great. Students presented necklaces that were originally just necklaces; Imma connected each pearl to loss and love and longing. We presented our favorite books, detailing the story lines and the impeccable prose; Imma asked about our favorite quotations while comparing each character to an important figure in our lives. Each of us learned how to write a column. Each of us learned how to meet our true self. We learned what questions to ask an interviewee while writing a journalistic piece, and we learned what questions to ask ourselves before we are equipped to write anything at all.



Come and Have a Tea with the Argentine Ambassador to Italy

By Yasmyn C. Camp, NYU Florence student

Ciao NYU Florence students! Come and have a tea with the Argentine Ambassador to Italy Torcuato Di Tella on February 19th at 4:00pm in Villa La Pietra. Students will be able to meet the Ambassador and ask him any questions they would like. This meeting will be in English. The conference will continue on February 20th at 10:00am-6:00pm through February 21st at 10:00am-12:00pm in Villa Sassetti with three discussion sessions. Students will listen into a discussion with other Argentine and Italian political figures, including the Ambassador, where they will be representing all sides of the ideological spectrum on the Latin American and European political systems.These discussion sessions will be in Spanish. Any native Spanish speakers, I encourage you to go to these discussion sessions.

Torcuato Di Tella, was born in Buenos Aires where he specialized in the comparative study of Latin American political systems. Before becoming the Argentine Ambassador to Italy, he was professor at the Universities of Chile and Buenos Aires. If you would like to meet other Argentine political figures, the Senator of Argentina Juan Manuel Abal Medina Jr. will be attending the two day conference on February 20th through February 21st.

Attending these events will be a great opportunity for students to learn more about Latin America and Europe, especially for students who are political science majors.

State of Crisis

By Claudia Cereceda, NYU Florence student

In the United States immigration and how to handle it is a humanitarian crisis that has become the center of political debate.  This is also the case in Europe. The European Union, which is made up of 28 member states, is extremely divided. Each member state has different regulations governing migration. The current crisis, that sees a high influx of immigrants coming to Europe for refuge, has reached serious proportions. War, displacement, and economic instability are driving larger numbers of people to abandon their homes in places like Syria, Eritrea, and Mali, among others and no end is in sight.

Italy, which is a coastal state, has received the largest bulk of these refugees. In October, 2013 there was a migrant shipwreck off the Italian coast of Lampedusa that resulted in the death of over 300 people. This was a tragedy that got the world’s attention and resulted in the creation of ‘Mare Nostrum’ (Latin for ‘our sea’), which was a military and humanitarian operation deployed by the Italian government to patrol the Mediterranean and be on hand to rescue migrants and arrest smugglers. This operation was effective in helping to rescue thousands of people; however, it was quite costly at nine million euros a month and the cost was being borne completely by the Italian government. Last November, Italy decided to suspend the operation because of the cost and because the policy was widely criticized for encouraging the arrival of more refugees. The European Union introduced Triton, a joint operation of the ‘Frontex Plus Operation’. However, Triton is criticized because it does not have as many vessels or resources as Mare Nostrum, and Triton does not go into International waters, which has resulted in a rise in the death toll.

This week alone there was a huge tragedy involving four dinghies that were sent from Libya and got caught in rough seas. One vessel is thought to be lost at sea and, while the others were rescued, there was still an exceptionally high death toll. Many people died of exposure while they were waiting to be rescued and others drowned. People are making this difficult journey because of the terrible situations that they are facing in their home countries. Knowing the risks and possibility of death, they are still willing to risk their lives in order to escape.

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Putting the World Into Words

By Opheli Garcia Lawler, NYU Florence student

I met Imma Vitelli last semester, when she came to give a talk about her travels to Eritrea and the harrowing migration routes of the Eritrean, crossing the Mediterranean. She was inspired to report the story after the Lampedusa shipwreck in 2013 It was one of the most inspiring hours of my life. Her workshop the following day changed how I approach writing, and made me more confident in my interest to pursue a career as a foreign correspondent.

Imma Vitelli is real. She is everything people say you can’t be. She tells the stories of those who can’t tell them on their own. As a writer for Marie Claire, she has traveled all over the world, met people from every walk of life, and has had experiences that are unbelievable to those who haven’t been immersed in that world.

Her workshop is essential for anyone hoping to become involved in journalism in the future. Her dialogue is essential for anyone who has interest in the stories of our world, because her travels have shown her many of them.

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The EU in Focus: Why should the European Union matter to Americans?

By Ledwin Martinez, NYU Florence student

Join Joseph H.H Weiler, President of the European University Institute, NYU Law school professor and former Harvard Law professor, as he demonstrates to Americans why the EU is important.

Weiler holds degrees from Sussex (B.A.); Cambridge (LL.B. and LL.M.); and The Hague Academy of International Law (Diploma of International Law). He earned his Ph.D. in European Law at the EUI, Florence. He is recipient of Doctorates Honoris Causa from London University, from Sussex University, from the University of Macerata, Italy and from the University of Edinburgh and is Honorary Member of the Senate of the University of Ljubljana.

Through his long international career and diverse global relationship with institutes and universities, Weiler can communicate with students and explain the significance of the EU and US relationship.

Take the time get some questions answered. Get a chance to dive into the mind of an international scholar who is familiar with the EU system.


Not only does the EU have the world’s largest GDP, it also has the world’s third largest population and is amongst the highest ranking in the world for education and living conditions. All those factors are crucial to the global economy which does affect the United States.

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As shown above, the population and the GDP of the European Union was much higher than of the United States’ in 2011 according to the World Bank. A 2013 report known as the EU Focus which was published by the Delegation of the European Union to the United States illustrated the economic relationship between the two nations. The report goes on to explain how interconnected the EU and the U.S. in regards to foreign direct investments.

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The United States has a consistent FDI to the EU each year while the EU’s FDI to the US is far greater at an average of 63% total U.S FDI. Former European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, even stated that “Europe and the United States are extremely connected. We are still the most integrated economies in the world, among the major players ,and we remain at the heart of the world economy.”

LPL Financial, a organization that works with financial advisors wrote an article, Europe: Key Readings, Data are Beginning to Show Improvement, where the European Union is compared to the United States. Apparently, the U.S. is much more dependent on the consumer component for their economy which reached 68% of the total GDP in 2013 (as shown below).
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United States and European Union GDP

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Source: World Bank


Why does the EU Matter?

We return to this question, but only closer to the answer. Primarily, the issues the European Union faces such as immigration, common currency and economic regulations all are matters that will ultimately affect other countries. It is clear that the economic relationship between the United States and the EU is of an huge importance to both countries. In the economic spectrum they are dependent on one another. There have been a variety of American experts who are pleased with the idea that the EU should remain subordinate to the United States. Lawrence J. Haas who is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, for example stated “Europe has a very important role to play under the umbrella of U.S. leadership.” However, after evaluating the strategic importance in terms of foreign affairs and their policies, it becomes much less clear how the EU matters. While the United States continues to have a special relationship with the United Kingdom, the European Union has only shown how divided they are when it comes to making decisions on foreign affairs. For that reason, the EU steps back on making strong decisions and participating in world crisis. So why should they matter? Is the only connection between the EU and the US based on their economies?

Come and attend this event with Professor Weiler and have these and your questions answered!



Haas, Lawrence J. “State of Europe Pre-summit Viewpoint: Europe Can Matter More in Global Affairs.” Europe’s World. N.p., 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <>.

World Radio Day

By Yasmyn C. Camp NYU Florence student

World Radio Day this year will be marked at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva on February 13th. This event will be broadcasted live around the world from 5 pm to 8 pm from the Popov room in ITU’s tower building.This event is organized by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the United Nations Office in Geneva, and ITU. What is World Radio Day? World Radio Day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of radio, facilitate access to information through radio, and enhance networking among broadcasters.

This year’s theme for World Radio Day is “Youth and Innovation” with the goal of promoting greater participation of youth in radio, not only as listeners, but as producers and broadcasters. During this event there are many talking points that will be covered. For example, there will be the discussion of the elimination of stereotypes and prejudice in the portrayal of young people in the media. This will be a great way to have a global celebration of radio as a medium while attracting a new range of audience.


The Italian Political System explained to a ‘Martian’ (in under 4 minutes!)

Today, Professors Giampiero Gallo and Francesco Clementi continued our look at the current Italian political scene and the challenges facing Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as he tries to push an ambitious reform agenda through parliament. Professor Gallo opened the Dialogue by challenging Clementi to explain the Italian political system to the audience as if they were ‘from Mars’ in under 4 minutes. Clementi rose to the task, outlining the main structure of Italian institutions highlighting the changes that are the object of the current institutional reform proposals under discussion in parliament.


Gallo asked Clementi to what extent the Italian experience under fascism, when dictator Benito Mussolini rose to power, has influenced the particularities

 of the structure of Italian institutions and if that should be taken into consideration when talking about current reforms. Professor Clementi agreed that Mussolini’s authoritarian rule had an important influence on post war Italian politics and safeguards were built into the constitution and a system of checks and balances instituted between the executive and parliament in order to prevent an authoritarian ruler from taking the reigns of the government. Italy’s perfect bicameralism, where the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate discuss the same legislation, is a clear example. In Italy a piece of legislation in order to be voted into law needs to be approved in exactly the same form by both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. If, for instance, the Chamber of Deputies approves an amendment to a law already approved by the Senate, the law must be sent back to the Senate for approval. This process, called the ‘navette’, continues until both chambers vote the same identical text.

This system has become inefficient. Renzi is trying to change the structure of the Italian parliament, concentrating legislative power in the Chamber of Deputies and making the Senate a body composed of representatives of the regions, which would vote only on specific kinds of legislation.

Renzi is also trying to push through a new electoral law that would speed up the process for naming a new governing coalition following elections and would make the governing coalition more stable. The current electoral law undermines the stability of the government because no party is able to gain a clear and strong majority in the parliament. Since the introduction of the current electoral law in 2005, the coalition led by the Prime Minister held a strong majority in the Chamber of Deputies but a narrow majority in the Senate. Several times a law proposed by the Prime Minister did not obtain enough votes in the Senate to be approved. This system leads to a hung parliament that cannot legislate. Under the electoral law proposed by Renzi the winning coalition will obtain a bonus that will ensure it a strong majority in the parliament.

The new President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella will guide the reform process. The role of the president is to guide the country, to represent national and not party interests, and to maintain unity in delicate situations like this.

See the event’s photo-gallery here.

Do you want to travel to the EU? Read On.

By Erica Garbarini, NYU Florence student

So you went to the information meeting on the EU Ground Series Working Group and it all seems great — the opportunities to learn more than you could ever hope about European politics through the Dialogues, a chance to demonstrate that knowledge through the working group presentation, and especially the NYU sponsored field trip to Luxembourg and Brussels. But what is the next step? First, you must attend tonight’s Dialogue with Nicolò Conti at 6pm tonight and learn a general outline of how the European government systems work. Don’t forget to send your RSVP to After attending this dialogue, it is extremely important that you get your motivation letter in to by February 16th explaining your interest in this working group. After you have completed and sent your letter: sit back, relax, and prepare for your group presentation on either immigration or data protection/surveillance. Thank you for your interest and good luck!

Welcome from NYU Florence alumni Kat Kitson

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.59.23 AMBenvenuti a Firenze! My name is Kat Kitson; I spent last year in Florence getting my master’s degree in Italian Studies. During that time, I also worked as the graduate intern for La Pietra Dialogues. It was my second year in Italy, but the longest period of time I’d spent in Florence. I had such an incredible experience, both with La Pietra Dialogues and NYU Florence. I know Florence and Villa la Pietra will be incredible hosts for you too, but I wanted to share a little bit about my experience and what I learned.

The very best piece of advice I can offer is to get involved, and LPD is a great way to do this! I had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible people—professors, artists, politicians, and the like. The events are small, so you can truly get a chance to talk to them and learn from them. I was fortunate enough to have dinner with some of the foremost contemporary scholars, talking about my thesis and my own research interests. I never would have had an opportunity like that if it weren’t for my involvement in LPD. The dialogues and events coordinated by LPD are such a great way to meet people—both your fellow students and dialogue participants. Some of the closest friendships I made while there were fostered through LPD. Working together on dialogues, on everything from the planning stages to the events themselves, made us spend lots of time together.

On a more practical note, LPD has also proved to be great work experience. I’m currently working at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and my time at LPD prepared me for this role. There are so many different ways to be involved with LPD, and there’s a role for everyone. Regardless of how you choose to get involved in Florence, just make sure you do. Florence is a lovely city, and it’s just waiting for you to get lost in it and make it your home. Wander around, get outside of your comfort zone, and take advantage of everything NYU and Florence has to offer you. You’re embarking on an incredible 4 months—enjoy la dolce vita!