You are here

In class with Ambassador Greg French

Australian Ambassador to Italy, Dr Greg French, delivers guest lecture to our students in Prato.

Defying the disruptive effects of the earthquake that hit Mugello just north of Prato early on 9 December, Dr Greg French, the Ambassador of Australia to Italy, arrived at the Monash University Prato Centre to deliver a lecture for students enrolled in The European Union from Consensus to Crisis.

Ambassador French opened the talk by explaining Australia’s broad foreign policy position: a commitment to the rules-based global order. This order has come under strain in the past decade – not least in the European Union (EU), the subject of inquiry by the Monash students from Australia and Malaysia whilst in Prato.

The Ambassador explained how a country’s interests extend from its values. As a ‘middle power’, multi-lateral forums and the preservation of international law were paramount for Australia. Such values were shared between Australia and the EU, even if they had been challenged by political developments such as support for populist parties and protectionist policies in EU member-states.

The Ambassador struck an optimistic note on climate change, whilst acknowledging the evident challenges. He pointed to significant collaboration between Australia and Italy in renewable energy projects. He also noted significant collaboration on what we might call ‘second tier’ diplomacy – or cultural diplomacy – in the arts and fashion industries. The latter is an important part of two-way trade between Australia and Italy.

Noting that the assembled students were likely to be future leaders, the Ambassador fielded questions from the students relating to their assessment topics of the crises experienced by the EU and potential ways out of such difficulties. Although the disruption caused by the earthquake meant that the Ambassador had to return to Rome sooner that he would have liked, the Monash students were able to enjoy some traditional Italian hospitality (i.e. great food and beautifully presented) for an early lunch!