Florida University 2008



Center for European Studies
3324 Turlington Hall
PO Box 117342
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 294-7142
(352) 392-8966 (fax)

Remarks made by Gordon Adam.

I am now an honorary ‘Gator.’ The word seemed to be all over Gainesville. It was a puzzle until it was explained to me that it was a shortened form of the word alligator, which inhabit the swamps of Florida and are even reputed to be found in the large lake on campus. Gator is the name given to the students, and in particular their highly successful athletic teams. The football stadium seats over 90,000.

In addition to two formal lectures, I took part in class seminars on democratisation and economic policy. I also spoke at an evening meeting of the EU Club, which a group of keen students had formed earlier in the year. They bombarded me with questions and some have since followed up with email messages. I cannot pretend that I was able to answer all of these questions in depth, but I was left in no doubt of their deep interest in European affairs. The frequency with which the issue of Turkish membership was raised took me rather by surprise. Questions on the development of democracy, the role of trade unions, and party political organization in the European Parliament also stand out in my memory.

My visit to the campus had been picked up by other departments and I had a dozen or so meetings with staff members in the College of Engineering, the Department of Political Science, Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy, the Public Utility Research Center, and the Industrial Assessment Center. Many of these discussions centered on energy issues. I was surprised not only at the interest in EU policies, but in the contacts that many of the staff had in the member states, their universities, and with the Commission. One department is involved with the water supply problems in Bulgaria and another participates in a French program on sustainable development without the use of depletable resources.

The university is active over the whole range of energy issues, and the US approach to societal needs, with its emphasis on energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable technologies, is similar to that of the EU. The university houses one of the 26 energy management centres in the US. This carries out free energy audits for SMEs. This is financed by the state and has been operating for 17 years. A group of students will spend a period in the summer in Chile carrying out energy audits and advising and training in energy management. There is also a project in the Caribbean examining the link between GDP and energy consumption.

University of Florida is huge, with over 50,000 students, and occupies a vast campus which dominates the town of Gainesville. In student numbers it ranks fourth in the USA. Even in my few days I could not be unaware of the excitement and energy of the student population, and of the depth of interest in what is happening in Europe.

“Bringing Europe to Florida” is part of the mandate of the CES, and I hope that my visit helped to raise the visibility of the Center’s work. Distance limits the amount of personal contact, but it should be possible for members and former members, to have some contact with visiting groups. The creation of a virtual centre for discussion of common issues amongst students and staff of the university with members, former members and the Commission could be a way forward, and a means of supporting the work of the Transatlantic Economic Council. The Atlantic may be a time and physical barrier which the email and the internet can overcome.