EU ambassador David O’Sullivan visited BYU on Tuesday, Mar. 29, and addressed students about the important issues that will affect European and American relations in 2016. He focused on the need for greater European integration and on the Syrian migrant crisis.
Cohesiveness is a major issue currently facing the EU, especially with the possibility of the Brexit looming overhead. The United Kingdom will hold a referendum on June 23, and citizens will decide whether or not the country should remain in the EU.
O’Sullivan said he supported their right to vote, but hoped they would not leave the bloc.
“As a lifetime European official, as an Irishman, I believe very strongly that the best future for the United Kingdom will be within the European Union,” O’Sullivan said. “And the best thing for the European Union would be for the United Kingdom to remain with us.”
Greater integration could solve many problems facing the EU’s 28 members without detracting from their national identities, according to O’Sullivan.
“Only closer European integration provides a way forward, and fragmentation offers only a way backwards,” O’Sullivan said. “Organizing ourselves in a way that has enough Europe to face the challenges we have, but not so much Europe that people feel it’s a threat to their national identity, is the constant tightrope we walk in building an integrated Europe.”
He said the Syrian migrant crisis is an example of integrated policy across the EU, but the policy is being carried out differently amongst various members.
“Even though the policy is decided at the European level, the implementation happens at a national level,” O’Sullivan said. “And if you then break it down at a national level, you see the numbers become quite different. Germany has received nearly 1.25 million refugees in the last 12 or 13 months.”
O’Sullivan explained the Syrian migrant crisis illustrates the need for good international relations between the EU and the United States. The two entities have already achieved diplomatic successes together, he said, including on the Iran nuclear deal.
“The message I want to leave you with is one of optimism, ultimately,” O’Sullivan said. “Of our future, our future together and the fact that we know that we will only solve the many challenges which are common across the Atlantic by working more closely together.”
The David M. Kennedy Center hosted O’Sullivan’s lecture as part of its ambassador lecture series. The final lecture of the semester will take place on April 6, when German ambassador Peter Wittig addresses BYU students.