Guarini Institute Launches Inaugural Panel on Clubhouse

In mid-June 2021, the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs landed on the social media networking application “Clubhouse,” a social-audio app that has taken the virtual world by a storm. Currently valued at 4 billion dollars with over 10 million users, Clubhouse’s audio-only format resembles a conference call, allowing users to host and take part in panels on various topics.
Using Clubhouse, the Guarini Institute will host events covering a wide array of international and political topics inside virtual rooms. These discussions will be accompanied by valuable insight from experts and academics, mostly drawn from the Guarini Institute Advisory Council.

Clubhouse Logo

Clubhouse Logo

Clubhouse Inaugural Panel

The first official event was held on June 17th, 2021, and focused on Joe Biden’s first six months in office as well as the projected future of his administration. Participants included JCU President Franco Pavoncello, Guarini Institute Director Federigo Argentieri, Eduardo Albrecht, Viviana Mazza, Elena Viola, Lucio Martino, Andrew Spannaus, Doaa Motaal, Leila Amineddoleh, Angela Brintlinger, Hans Noel, Farian Sabahi, John Fanti, and Costanza Hermanin.

One of the most significant and polarizing topics brought up was the element of continuity. While it is obvious that the Biden administration has attempted to drastically shift gears in Washington (in terms of gun control, racial equality, immigration, and pandemic response), some argued that there is a certain degree of political inheritance from the Trump administration. The Biden administration has not fully emerged from the shadow of its predecessor and, in areas such as the competitive policy towards China or Iran, it might not even want to. The Russian summit, attended by Putin and Biden, also divulged interesting insights into the Biden administration and its foreign policy.

Some of the speakers criticized Biden for giving Putin an equal and global platform to voice his point of view, yet some argued that the act was well overdue and America could not make the mistake of underestimating Putin’s Russia. While there was a mutual consensus that Biden drew some firm lines on cyber security with Putin, others were skeptical about this accommodating approach adopted by the U.S. administration. Moreover, it was argued that the U.S. has a lot to gain from a policy of cooperation with Russia, as it will require Russia’s assistance in Afghanistan and Syria.

All in all, these small victories at various summits and conferences  garnered a lot of praise for the professionalism of the Biden administration’s foreign policy. In the past six months, it seems as if the US has claimed its seat at the table once again.

Pre-Launch Panel on EU-Sahel Relations

A few days before the official launch of the Guarini Institute’s presence on Clubhouse, Professor Federigo Argentieri organized a discussion on his personal Clubhouse account. The discussion regarded the Sahel region in Sub-Saharan Africa, and was hosted by Emanuela Del Re, the recently appointed Special Representative of the European Union for the Sahel. Other panelists included Franco Pavoncello, President of John Cabot University, as well as moderator Annamaria Esposito, Foreign Affairs journalist for Rainews24.

Both the Esposito and Del Re brought up the issue of current European policy toward the Sahel region, focused on defending Europe from being potentially impacted by the numerous proxy fights and volume of illicit traffic in the area. Del Re proposed balancing both security for Europe and development in the Sahel by rendering security achievable through new opportunities and economic growth rather than coercive action.

However, the lack of reliable and stable partners in the Sahel available to implement Del Re’s policy is an issue to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, she is hopeful in the potential of the new European strategy to bring a stable governance to the region.

President Pavoncello asked about the next course of action, to which Del Re replied by referring to the creation of a Commission for the EU-Sahel Partnership. This partnership is  one of her main achievements as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, given its comprehensive approach to promoting development in the region . She further stated that the use of the word “partnership” is the symbol of a cultural revolution that is turning the EU-Sahel relations from a traditional donor-recipient balance to a more equal one.

Del Re has seen France’s approval of her nomination as a signal of this new sensibility of hegemonic European States toward the Sahel. However, as part of her closing remarks, Del Re delineated the actions of other Extra-European actors in the region. For instance, following a question posed by Professor Argentieri, Del Re cited Turkey’s strategy to create a trade channel with Sahel states, while China, equally interested in economic and cultural expansion, is busy with building hospitals and museums. Limits to these operations are emerging, and Europe can still retain its comparative advantage, Del Re concluded.

(Mariam Asim, Ingeborg Gruenwald and Gabriele Maggi)

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