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Controversial appointment of Federica Mogherini as rector of the College of Europe

The Italian politician Federica Mogherini has been appointed rector of the College of Europe in Bruges.  She will take office on 1 September 2020.

Mogherini served as the Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy from November 2014 to November 2019. In the same period of time she was a Vice-President of the European Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker. Earlier, she served as Italy’s Minister for Foreign Affairs in the centre-left Renzi Cabinet. For some time already, the 47-year-old Mogherini has been a visiting professor in the Department for EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies of the College of Europe.

So what is the problem with Mogherini’s appointment? With the College of Europe being one of the most important training providers for future EU staff, is Mogherini’s appointment not understandable, perhaps even not desirable? Yes, according to some. But others find the relationship between the College of Europe a bit too cosy. Not everybody is regarding her appointment as a case of cronyism, but many staff and alumni of the institution have pointed out that the rules for the appointment had been interpreted in a rather ‘laidback’ way. One example. Mogherini supposedly submitted her application when the official deadline was already over. The fact that former Council President Herman Van Rompuy was central in the selection of Mogherini is regarded as a ‘spicy detail’. 

The strongest criticism, however, was that Mogherini is just not qualified as a politician to lead an academic institution. Well, at the time she was appointed the Union’s “foreign minister’, it was predicted that the ‘biggies’ of the world would make minced meat out of her. This did not happen.


College of Europe