Scholar Spotlight: Lucio Gussetti

May 10, 2023

European Studies Council Visiting Fellow, Lucio Gussetti discussed his life and work at Yale during 2022-2023 academic year.  Gussetti is Director and Principal Legal Adviser of the European Commission for Foreign and Security Policy and External Relations and a former member of the Private Office of the European Commission’s President. 

How did you come to Yale? What have you worked on as a Yale EU Visiting Fellow? What are the main thesis and arguments of your research paper titled, A Common Defence for the European Union – A New Actor is Finally Emerging ?

Why am I here? The European Union has a longstanding agreement with a number of universities around the world, including Yale, for exchanges, visiting fellowships. I have taken this opportunity to use this intellectual space in order to focus myself on drafting a very specific paper on an extremely intricate and politically exposed subject – the emergence of the EU common defense. This is a starting point. The paper was completed on April 17,  2023, and it went by far beyond my expectations in terms of length: I was expecting to be able to draft between 80-100 pages, but it actually came to be 265 pages or 65,000 words, with 330 footnotes. I have also taken an opportunity to publish for the first time ever three documents on the history of negotiations of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union of 1993. These documents are publicly available at the archives of the Council of the European Union but have never been published. This paper is a strange animal, combining legal interpretation, document research and policy analysis .

I am an international lawyer, and the first part of the paper is a legal examination of the texts of the treaties, their negotiating history, structure, meaning, and aim. This examination brought me back to the negotiation around the European Defense Community (EDC) in the 1950s, that was never ratified. But still the number of provisions contained there can be traced ahead to the Maastricht and other successive iterations of the European Union treaties until today. That first part of my paper is more of a lawyer’s job.

The second part of this project is more of a geostrategic study as it examines both the relationship between the EU and NATO, and the EU-NATO relationship vis-à-vis the surrounding world. It discusses the impact of the emergence of the European common defense on the United States, NATO, and other parts of the world, in particular, the rest of Europe and Africa. Additionally, I dedicated a chapter to the possible impact of the European common defense on the United Nation’s peace-keeping operations – somethings that is not commonly thought about but is of great importance.

The third part of the paper consists of policy reflections where I establish convincing parallelism between the ways in which the United States historically developed in the military field and what is going on today in the EU. There are a number of similarities. Similar does not mean identical though: the context and historical circumstances are different but the ways in which similar problems are addressed coincide. This struck me, so I devoted several pages to this topic. This approach takes away a misperception about the EU defense as odd or strange by demonstrating its logic. These chapters also speak to the US perceptions and misperceptions of the development of a more autonomous EU defense, which is the most politically exposed part of the paper. To avoid partisan polemics, I referred to the statements of the last five US Presidents and Congressional documents. I detected a pattern in partisanship in the relationships with the EU: the Republican party seems less prone to have an open relationship with the EU than the Democratic party. My work is beyond any ideological approach. I try to describe what I see happening for others to draw their own conclusions.

And finally, the paper has a 20-page conclusion discussing what is happening in Russia and Ukraine now. It talks about the possible expansion of the EU to the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. There are also a number of questions about the current situation combined with the terrible tension around the NATO expansion. I tried to suggest solutions on how to disconnect, decouple these two things, which is a particularly difficult endeavor in the geostrategic field. This is a brief description of my paper.

Did you work with other Yale faculty, researchers, or fellows? What scholarly interactions were particularly informative? Did you form any new collaborations with colleagues at Yale? What Yale resources have been helpful for developing your work?

I used three tools or sources for my research. The first one, not connected to Yale, is a legal side of European law. The second source which is very important for me is a number of scholars that I have spoken to during this period. Their insights greatly contributed to the development of my paper. The list of approximately 30 people is included as an annex in my paper. These are scholars and practitioners from Yale and Washington D.C. For example, I spoke with the Ambassador of Greece to the United States Ms. Papadopoulou. The structure of Yale invites for the exchange of ideas. This was very positive experience for me. This relative openness and ease to have one-on-one conversations, this wealth of scholarship and access to conferences on campus were very useful for my work. For me, coming from a more structured place to the university campus was an interesting experience. My project covered potentially several areas split across departments. I spoke to various people at Yale Law School, including Sterling Professor of International Law Harold Hongju Koh. (Gussetti and Koh discussed EU-NATO relations in the talk titled, Every Inch of NATO Territory: Transatlantic solidarity for the defense of the European continent and some lessons from the creation of the US federal armed forces on April 19, 2023). The geostrategic and geopolitical questions were discussed with scholars from the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs. I am very grateful for many conversations I had there, including with Arne Westad, the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs. (Gussetti and Westad talked about the concept “indivisibility of security” in the talk titled, The Ukraine/Russia War and Indivisibility of Security on the European Continent: a Perspective from the EU on February 22, 2023). There I also met Emma Sky, the founding Director of Yale’s International Leadership Center and lecturer at the Jackson School, who was simply exceptional and most welcoming. Our interactions were very enriching for me. And at the MacMillan Center, the logistical support by Sr. Program Manager, Carly Koebel  and Programs Coordinator, Christina Andriotis was fantastic. The third source was Yale Library. My experience with the Library was extraordinary. I spoke with the librarians who shared with me their expertise. I felt privileged to have this excellent world-class service at hand. I was not sure if I was able to use all this wealth fully but after 330 footnotes, I told myself to stop. I wish to thank James Kessenides, Kaplanoff Librarian for American History, and Michael Printy, Head of the Humanities Group and Librarian for Western European Humanities, for their support.

Could you describe your writing process during your fellowship?

I ended up producing a long and well-structured final document which is basically a book. We could say that I exceeded my own expectations and, for the first time, lived through the experience of a writer. I immediately realized that eight months, from September 2022 to April 2023, were far too short a period to draft such a complex document. I felt under a sense of urgency. What I did was put myself under a huge pressure to frontload the first draft by Christmas. The first draft was sketchy and not well organized, but it had the merit of existing. By January, I had about 110 pages which was followed by the later addition of 80 pages. The initial draft helped me to see the structure and start filling in the gaps. As soon as something is already in writing, correcting, adding on, and changing the structure become much easier. The first three and a half months of writing were the most difficult. After that, I sent the initial version of the paper to two people for feedback. One of the reviewers provided very detailed feedback. By March, I wrote the second version and sent it back to him and another reviewer. I received feedback which prompted me to write two more subchapters, which was another 40 pages. Finally, I updated all footnotes and proofread the paper, completing my work on April 17.

Did you work with Yale students? In what capacity? Can you share any teaching moments or scholarly discussions you had with Yale students?

I worked with Holly Harris, Master’s Student of European Studies, who provided support for my work. (Harris presented alongside Gussetti and Koh on April 19, 2023). I thought of student development at Yale, and I would suggest greater interdisciplinary engagement, perhaps, by attending events outside of their disciplines in order to be exposed to the unknown, challenged by different logic. For instance, I attended a few conferences at the Humanities Quadrangle with this purpose. I think, the MacMillan Center could be a great resource for organizing such opportunities, enhancing the University’s culture.

How was your time at Yale? Can you share a few memories that you think might encapsulate your experience? Is there anything that took you by surprise about the campus environment?

I was able to focus here due to the absence of commute and pressures of different kind. I rented a house on the beach in East Haven. I watched sunrises and worked on my paper. The way that Yale campus is structured – and I visited other American universities, such as Harvard, UCLA, and the University of Texas at Austin – very much reminds me of a European city. The Yale campus’ mechanics – squares and meeting points – invite for meeting up, unlike some other campuses. This experience gave me a good feeling and was similar to my experiences in European cities.

How do you invision the impact that your work, developed at Yale, may have on European policies? How do you plan to disseminate your research results?

First, I have already made this paper available to the office of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. She may be interested in this work because of the heated topic of the EU accession prospects of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. Second, I will disseminate my paper internally within other European institutions. I can safely say that the number of things presented in this paper were never put in writing until now, which is not to say they were unknown. This may be of help for the European institutions, specifically, for the European Parliament and the member states in the European Council. They will draw their own conclusions from my work. The following topics of my paper will be of interest to them: reflections on the transatlantic solidarity for European defense; historical comparison between the US and the EU; examination of the support of the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts by the EU and the nation-states; analysis of the structural relationship in the triangle of the UN, the EU, and the member states. I have also attempted to interpret the objectives of the defense at the EU level by examining the notion of EU “independence.” Concepts of this kind have not been addressed before in a paper. Speaking about broader impacts, this work contributes to the interpretation of law that determines European operational and financial decisions. Additionally, this paper speaks about the relations between the member states’ Constitutions and the EU treaties. Finally, I analyze the relationship between the EU and NATO. So, this paper makes contributions to the fields of constitutional law within the EU and transatlantic geopolitics. Third, I would like to publish my paper in a timely manner in order to contribute to scholarly and public discussions on these important topics.

Interviewed by Elena Adasheva-Klein