European Union Ambassador to the United States Joao Vale de Almeida paid a visit to Pittsburgh last week, timely in the sense that the EU is in the thick of efforts to resolve the current contretemps between Russia and Ukraine without its descending into war.
The ambassador came to inaugurate a newly named library at the University of Pittsburgh, honoring librarian Barbara Sloan, specializing in EU subjects, reflecting the university’s designation as an EU Center of Excellence. He also took the opportunity to address audiences hosted by Pitt and by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh on matters of importance to the now 28-nation body. Croatia was added to its membership last year.
Citing Pittsburgh’s hosting of the G-20 conference in 2009 he praised the city for its international consciousness. He said Pittsburgh seemed to operate on an assumption he favored that, “You can’t understand your village if you don’t understand the world.”
The ambassador didn’t hesitate to address sensitive topics, providing nuanced answers to queries on Ukraine and a possible independent Scotland. He cited relative EU success in taking steps to resolve recent problems presented by the economies of some countries of the 17-nation eurozone, claiming cooperation as the essential element.
He said the basic EU objective with respect to Russia and Ukraine was to de-escalate the conflict. He said the EU maintained on the table a relatively attractive offer to Ukraine of a path to eventual EU accession. At the same time, he indicated full understanding of the basic European and American objective of avoiding the situation in the Crimea and Ukraine descending into military conflict, rather than political pushing and pulling.
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have visitors such as Mr. Vale de Almeida to help the city stay in the game internationally.