The path to the president

Written by Rosie on . Posted in Profiles

Alexandre Stutzmann

Alexandre Stutzmann, chief diplomatic advisor to the president of the European Parliament

The chief diplomatic advisor to the president of the European Parliament, Alexandre Stutzmann, talks to EUI Times about how four years at the Institute prepared him for his frantic schedule working with Martin Schulz.

“I have a feeling I’ve never really left the EUI, as what I’ve been doing for the past 11 years has been some sort of cultural and intellectual continuity to what I was doing back in Florence,” says Stutzmann from his Strasbourg office.
“It’s because of the topics and the culture; what the EUI gives you is this capacity of interacting in as many European languages as you can speak with people from as many European backgrounds as you can get.”

Stutzmann was a researcher in the Institute’s Department of Political and Social Sciences from 1997 until 2001, focusing on transatlantic relations and on cases as diverse as trade disputes and conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Intellectual curiousity took him to law seminars, which he remembers as “absolutely an enrichment”, while in his final two years he taught international relations and political sociology at New York University’s Florence campus.

The multicultural experience made him wary of returning to “the franco-centric thinking” of Paris and instead he opted for Brussels, joining the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Communication as a spokesperson in August 2001. “It coincided with 9/11 and everything became very focused and interesting,” Stutzmann remembers.

A year later he joined the secretariat of the Committee on Foreign Affairs where he spent three years working mostly with the Mediterranean region and the Middle East Peace Process, in particular the financing of the Palestinian Authority.

From there he became the advisor to the Director General for External Policies and in 2007 took up his post as an advisor to the then president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, before joining his successor President Jerzy Buzek. Over the past six years he has spent his days switching between topics and regions, advising on anything within the sphere of foreign policy.

Even after over a decade working within the EU, the job remains a challenge. “You constantly have to be updated on all key issues and sometimes that is difficult because you have to go beyond the headline; you have to know the intricacies of the case and the margin of your president, with no time for research,” he says.

Stutzmann has three junior advisors in his team who “share the world” and keep him up-to-date, enabling him to draw up a strategy on how the president should handle international visitors and his own tours.

A further task as chief advisor is to ensure that the actions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Development, the Committee on International Trade and inter-parliamentary delegations are in line with those of the president. He also forms close relationships with the Parliament’s members who are particular active in foreign affairs.

Topics he has recently worked on include the detention of opposition politicians in Ukraine, unrest in Lebanon and the active role of Schulz as president of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly. In controversial matters Stutzmann is tasked with presenting a given issue in such a way that will not promote an attack on the president. His role is to put differences aside, “working towards a common goal and making sure we’re all on the same road”.

“It’s challenging but that makes it fascinating,” he says, “You give your loyalty, energy and time to a person but you are also constantly defending the European spirit and keeping that spirit alive.”

Stutzmann is confident that EUI researchers can follow his career path through the EU concours scheme and on to higher office within the institutions. “The experience I had at the EUI prepared me for the job. It’s not easy to get in and it’s become more difficult, but for somebody who is enthusiastic and believes in what’s being done here and why the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize this is definitely a place to contribute.”


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