Pedro Sánchez studied EU economy at the IEE in 1998

During a private visit, between the EU – Western Balkans leaders’ meeting and the European Council of June 23rd, Sánchez retrieved his diploma and spent time with the ULB and IEE authorities, alumni and staff, as well as some of his former professors.

Mr. Pedro Sánchez was welcomed by ULB Vice-rector for external relations, Prof. Anne Weyembergh; IEE President, Prof. Ramona Coman; the Institute’s Vice-President, Prof. Emmanuelle Bribosia and by Prof. Matthias Dewatripont, from the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Business and his former teacher.

Professor Weyembergh highlighted the strong ties that bind together Spain and the ULB.

“Spain is one of our most important international partners in Europe: we have 42 Erasmus agreements with Spanish universities; Spain is the first European destination for our outgoing students, and Spain is the country that sends us the highest number of incoming students”, said Prof. Weyembergh, who took the opportunity to underline the ULB’s strong partnership with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, part of the European University CIVIS. Professor Weyembergh offered PM Sánchez a copy of the book “50 journeys to European Integration” that features the lives of 50 ULB Almni, including Sánchez, who have worked and contributed to European construction.

A symbolic graduation ceremony

IEE President, Professor Ramona Coman, in a symbolic graduation ceremony, drew a parallel between the events occupying the EU agenda in 1998, when he was a student at the Institute, and those at the centre of the European debate today, when he participates as head of state in the decision-making process.

“Having one of our alumni leading the Spanish presidency of the Council in 2023 and preparing the ground for the Belgian presidency in the first half of 2024, when our IEE will celebrate 60 years of existence is an honour for us and a beacon of hope for the future of EU integration. We will be proud again as we are today to say that in 60 years we have made a modest contribution to training more than 8000 graduates who have dedicated their careers to the European project”, said Prof. Coman.

Pedro Sánchez: Thankful for his time at the IEE

PM Pedro Sánchez recalled fondly his time at the Institute and the professional steps he took after: first as parliamentary assistant for socialist MEP Barbara Dührkop and a year later as head of cabinet for Carlos Westendorp, the international High Representative of the United Nations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“When you think about your duties as professors and teachers, be proud: you deliver, you help people like you helped me when I was young. So, many thanks. It means a lot to me, because the Institute opened a lot of opportunities for me in Brussels and thanks to you, and the wonderful teachers I had at that time, I strengthened my political and European convictions”, said the Spanish Prime Minister, before signing his diploma, and vowing to come back to his Alma Mater. “I will be always in contact with your university and with this Institute”.

In representation of the AlumnIEE rotating co-presidency, Giogia Bozzini, Matteo Guidi and Jessica Simoes offered Prime Minister Sánchez some IEE memorabilia and explained the ongoing efforts to bring back to campus the community of former students and invite them to give back as mentors, speakers, to those still in the classrooms.

 The visit concluded with a nostalgic tour of the IEE gardens and classrooms and an informal moment around a “verre de l’amitié” with IEE authorities, alumni and staff.


Photos: Aurore Delsoir