Pioneers of the European Studies


"I have fought my whole life for guaranteeing that European Integration is taught in Chile"

Professor Iris Vittini is one of the pioneers of the European Studies in Latin America. Along with Professor Alberto Rioseco, founded the European integration studies in Chile at the Institute for International Studies (University of Chile). She was one of the founders of ECSA Chile and its first President. Professor Alberto Rioseco (the second one at the right side, in an academic activity 2007), who gave Iris Vittini the impulse to devote herself to the European Studies, died in April 2013 being 96 years old. During 52 years he taught at the University of Chile, starting with Economic Law and then International Law. In this area he promoted untiringly the European Studies and was Honorary President of ECSA Chile. Professor Vittini continues teaching courses at different study centers.

María Cristina Silva, ECSA Chile President, and Enrique Banús, had the occasion to attend Professor Vittini's invitation to a tea in her home in Santiago de Chile. The long conversation about European issues will be published in the website of ECSA World. We document in this newsletter only two parts of the related to how she started studying European integration and on the foundation of ECSA Chile. In the next newsletter other parts of the interview will be collected.


How did you become interested in European integration? We know Professor Alberto Rioseco played a major role. Who was Alberto Rioseco?

He was a great professor, an endless good man, always interested in learning. I never saw someone with so profound knowledge and at the same time as humble. Being 96 years old he ceased to give classes, but at the time he started at 5 o’clock in the morning receiving the news from Europe. He was completely abreast of everything that was going on in European integration. Besides, he had a great merit: he was the only lecturer in Chile who was a specialist in Public International Law and in European and Latin American integration. For me what was his merit? He oriented my whole academic career.

We met the first time at a solemn ceremony in the Aula Magna of the University of Chile, in the 60s. He gave a speech and at the end of the ceremony I approached him for congratulating him for the speech […].

Later on, at a talk in his office at FLACSO [an inter-gouvernmental institution in Latin America] I told him: I am a lawyer but I wanted to postgraduate in Sociology; and he said:

- Sociology? O no! Are you not the daughter of Manuel Antonio Herrera? Your father wrote about integration. So, you have to write to Felipe Herrera, Director of the BID, who has created the Institute for Integration of Latin America in Buenos Aires. Go there for studying integration. This is your way!

So from the very beginning he oriented me, he showed where the most relevant issue for me was. And so was it. So I began. I started to study in this field thanks to this grant of the Inter-American Bank in Argentina, in 1967. A wonderful experience. I learned very interesting things at that course.


And the way to ECSA Chile?

With Alberto Ríoseco and other enthusiastic professors we started working in the 60ies in the field of integration at the Catholic University in Santiago. Alberto Ríoseco and me were always those having the greatest interest for the European integration, European integration process, more than the other professors. We were big admirers of the European integration process.

Regarding the creation of ECSA, in one of the meetings on Latin American Law I attended, in Ouro Preto, the organizer Professor [Werter] Faria said to me: "Why are you waiting, Iris, for creating ECSA Chile?" And I said: – Well, if you send me your Statutes, we will start.

And he sent them. And with some difficulties we made our statutes. In this moment, in which a President had to be elected, all of us wanted Alberto [Rioseco]. He was elder than me, with a more relevant curriculum, a Professor of International Law. But he said to me. – No, Iris, you have to do this, because you are the motor; you are moving everything. So it was…


What is the importance of Werner's document?

The history of this document started when I met the Chilean representative of the European Union in 2004: Antón Santos. He became a milestone in my life and in my investigations. He was the man who showed me the Werner report. In my travels to Europe I always talked about the Werner but everybody was unaware of its existence. It was in my stay in Poland when people saw my interest in the document and it was translated into polish.

Moreover, this document introduced for me a new perspective in the European Commission about Latin America. It showed that Latin American should be treated differently because of its diversity. We must deal with this diversity. We have a great challenge in foreign policy. After that, the European Commission immediately changes the pace and started to negotiate in a commercial and political way.


How has the situation of European Studies in Chile and Latin America in general evolved?

In the 60-70 years in Latin America there were very few initiatives and few interested people in European Integration. That is why everyone in the area tried to attend and take advantage of all the meetings that occurred in South America. There was a great atmosphere in these encounters. Almost always the meetings were funded by the university where the meeting was taking place, sometimes with the collaboration of the government.

I think these European integration meetings should be restarted in South America and that the foreign ministries could finance most of them because it's now a consolidated process, not as "light" as it used to be. Without a doubt, the foreign ministries have to commit more on teaching integration.

I would like to make a letter to all those rectors from public and private universities that contemplate European integration education. It is necessary to follow the model of Europe, and advice the Chilean Foreign Ministry.

Dialogue among academics is needed such as it was proposed at the summit in Lima in 2008.

"When people start to protect more their interests of what benefit can obtain from ECSA, things change. The ones who work in a disinterested way, like we have always done, are the ones who can achieve the success".




First President of ECSA Hong Kong

“When I left Hong Kong in 1997 I felt that at least some progress, along three related paths, had been made towards implementing European Studies firmly on the far-off shore of China”

“It brought back pleasant memories of those years in the 'nineties when I and my colleagues at Hong Kong Baptist University worked hard to establish European Studies firmly as an academic discipline in Hong Kong. Here are some spontaneous remarks. […]

The founding of the HK Association needs to be seen against the background of the undergraduate course in European Studies, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, which was founded when I was head of the Government and International Studies (GIS) Department at HKBU in 1995-1997. This course was an ambitious one. It included intensive language instruction, in either French or German, plus a year's study at an academic institution in Europe, for all those enrolled on it. It naturally required considerable long-distance organization to work effectively. I was fortunate to have in the GIS Department a group of very able colleagues - Chinese, French and German - who devoted their whole energies to making the course a success. We were also helped materially by the French, German and Swiss Consulates, and of course by the European Commission in Brussels, as well as by its representative in Hong Kong. GIS became a European Documentation Centre.

The establishment of the Association was a natural concomitant of the course. It provided an opportunity for all those who specialized in some aspect of Europe in the many universities and colleges in Hong Kong to meet together, to exchange ideas, to invite and hear visiting speakers, and so on. As a member of the umbrella organization ECSA it facilitated communication between Hong Kong scholars and their counterparts in Europe.

One further development at this time also deserves mention. Professor Meissner, a distinguished colleague in the GIS Department, was keen to establish a journal devoted to 'East-West Dialogue.' I strongly favored his initiative and the first issue, edited by Meissner, duly appeared in June 1996. Hence when I left Hong Kong, regretfully, in the autumn of 1997, I felt that at least some progress, along three related paths, had been made towards implanting European Studies firmly on the far-off shore of China”.