This April, Matej Bel University (UMB) took a significant step towards nurturing international academic ties with a notable visit to the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy. The delegation from UMB, comprising of Professor Kamila Borsekova, Professor Alexandra Bitusikova, Dr. Jozef Michal Mintal, Dr. Vladimir Muller, and Dr. Robert Vancel, engaged in vibrant discussions, and knowledge exchange with key figures at the EUI over four days. The visit began with a cordial welcome from Joanna Wielgo and Ingo Linsenmann at the Robert Schuman Centre, marking the start of the intensive academic itinerary.

The first major meeting was held with the Centre for a Digital Society (CDS) and the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CPMF), where key themes around digital society were addressed. This included an exploration of the economics of disinformation and the impact of social media on society.

Engaging dialogues followed with Prof. Giacomo Calzolari, Dean of Research and Professor of Economics at EUI. Prof. Calzolari’s insights into economic, social, and regional inequalities and their impact on democracy created a fertile ground for discussions on high-impact research environments.

A substantial part of the visit involved meetings with multiple professors and research fellows at EUI. Notably, the delegation interacted with Prof. Filip Kostelka, Chair in Political and Social Change, Prof. Erik Jones, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre, Dr. Lorenzo Cicchi, Research Fellow, Robert Schuman Centre, Prof. Philippe Van Parijs, Simone Veil Fellow, Robert Schuman Centre, and Prof. Waltraud Schelkle, Joint Chair for European Public Policy. These meetings covered a broad range of topics, including the VAA implementation in Slovakia, voting behavior research, and the teaching of courses on European political economy.

One of the highlights was a meeting with Prof. Renaud Dehousse, the President of EUI. This interaction marked a milestone in fostering institutional relationships between UMB and EUI, with promising prospects for further collaboration.

The UMB delegation also had fruitful discussions with Prof. Lauren Kassell, Professor of the History of Science and Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusiveness, and Prof. Monika Baar, Joint Chair in the History of East-Central and South-Eastern Europe. These meetings focused on pressing societal issues such as inequality, voting behavior, and gender polarization.

The visit concluded with a powerful public lecture by Prof. Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council (ERC). Prof. Leptin’s talk on “The Transformative Effect of Frontier Research” underscored the profound influence of scientific research and technology on our world.

The visit undoubtedly marked a pivotal point in the strengthening of academic ties between UMB and EUI, with potential for future joint research and projects. It reasserted the importance of international academic cooperation in today’s interconnected world.