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Barcelona GSE Opening Ceremony with lecture by Joaquín Almunia, European Commission

The Barcelona GSE officially inaugurated the 2012-13 academic year on Monday, October 22 with a ceremony at Agbar Tower, headquarters of Barcelona GSE board member institution, Agbar Group. The ceremony included a lecture by Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission and honorary president of the Barcelona GSE, who spoke on the topic of "The European Monetary Union, the euro and the financial crisis."

Welcoming the new masters students to the Barcelona GSE were Dr. Eduard Vallory, Director of the Barcelona GSE; Prof. José García-Montalvo (UPF and Barcelona GSE), Vice-rector for Science Policy at UPF; Prof. Maria P. Dellunde, Vice-rector for Research at UAB; Prof. Ramon Marimon (UPF-EUI and Barcelona GSE), Chairman of the Barcelona GSE Board of Trustees; and Prof. Andreu Mas-Colell, Catalan Minister for Economy and Knowledge and founder of the Barcelona GSE.

In his remarks to the students, Dr. Vallory encouraged them to make the most of their master year. "You are privileged people. You have the exceptional opportunity to take advantage of an outstanding group of peers, an excellent faculty, and a stimulating environment. Make the most of it," he said. "You also have the responsibility to later on use your knowledge to build more reliable institutions, better companies, and stronger and prosperous economies."

For his part, Prof. Mas-Colell commented on the need for skilled economic analysts in government and policymaking and the encounters he has had with Barcelona GSE alumni who are already working on policy issues in government and public institutions. "These days, I receive many visits from economists and financial analysts from around the world. We are in high demand," Prof. Mas-Colell said. "More than once in that capacity, I have had the satisfaction of meeting with alumni from this School."

Today's graduate students, tomorrow's economic analysts and policymakers

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Barcelona GSE Class of 2013 at Agbar Tower - Opening Ceremony 2012-13.

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The Barcelona GSE Class of 2013 gathers 245 students from 60 different countries who bring with them a diverse portfolio of academic backgrounds and professional experiences. During their master year, they will develop advanced knowledge and receive rigorous training to become economic analysts, with the ultimate goal of pursuing further research or professional careers.

The lecture by Mr. Almunia at Monday's Opening Ceremony would have been of particular interest to those students who are planning to enter government or policy institutions. The lecture gave a detailed, inside look at developing European macroeconomic policies, essentially in real time and delivered by one of the key participants in the process.

"We need to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns that is paralyzing the European Union's economy," Mr. Almunia said. "This is what the European institutions are determined to do with their proposals to establish a new banking union and to complete the European Monetary Union.

"Last week's European Council reaffirmed the need to move towards an integrated financial framework and established as a matter of priority to agree on the legislative framework of a single supervisory mechanism for the euro area by the end of the year," Mr. Almunia said. "Once adopted, the single supervisor will open the doors to the direct recapitalization of euro-area banks by the ESM."

Mr. Almunia emphasized the role that economic analysts and researchers will play in helping to articulate to the public the reasons and arguments for the policies in development.

"Europe's challenges are complex and do not afford simple—let alone simplistic—solutions," Mr. Almunia said. "It is the responsibility of political authorities to illustrate clearly the policy options to the citizens and argue their decisions—and experts and academics should be fully involved in this effort," he told the students.

Students ask their questions, online and in person

Before the ceremony, students and alumni from the GSE community posed questions to Mr. Almunia via the School's social media channels. Some of the questions submitted appear at right.

One student, Roger Fernández from the Master Program in Economics of Public Policy, was able to speak with Mr. Almunia after the lecture. "In the current economic, political, and social context, this was the best opportunity to ask these questions," Mr. Fernández said.

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One of the questions he put to Mr. Almunia was, "Do you believe that with the current crisis, the conservative and neoliberal governments are taking advantage to dismantle the Welfare State, and that all these austerity policies are increasing the poverty in the Southern States and benefiting other countries like Germany, which has been even financed with negative values, helping to solve their internal problems, such as the banking issues?"

Mr. Almunia responded, "It is a fact that the neoliberals have always wanted to dismantle the Welfare State. Now and also before the crisis. In reference to the conservatives, it will depend on how conservative they are, but they will also try to do it to a greater or lesser degree, for the simple fact that they are conservatives."

Students and faculty were able to interact with both Mr. Almunia and Prof. Mas-Colell over refreshments following the opening ceremony.

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Opening Lecture: "European Monetary Union, the euro, and the financial crisis" (full text)

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