A native of Portugal, Joao Vale De Almeida is a fan of soccer and port wines. He’s the European Union’s ambassador to the United States and this was his first trip to West Virginia.
De Almeida spoke to several hundred WVU students about the need for collaboration between America’s government and the European Union as the world’s economy continues to move forward following harsh fiscal times in the last several years. The Ukraine-Russian tension is something De Almeida is paying attention to. He says problems there have the ability to inflict problems on the world economy.
"It’s one of the top issues that we’re dealing with today. Our authorities in Europe are following the events with great attention and care. We are working on a daily basis with our American friends. The basic focus of our activity is to support Ukraine’s transition to full democracy," De Almeida said.
One of the students who attended the event is Dylan Pany. He’s about to graduate from the university with a degree in business management. He asked the ambassador about what incentives countries have to join the EU. Pany says he wants to work in international business, and possibly with the EU, after his graduation.
"I’ve always wanted to work in Europe, because it’s such an important continent, and part of the world, in regards to the global economy," Pany said.
Pany spent some time in Italy, and he plans to go back.
"I really think the factor that set me off in international business interests was when I studied abroad, getting over there and meeting people and learning about different cultures. It’s a different speed, its whole new way of life," Pany said.
De Almeida is visiting the state over the next few days and will meet with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The ambassador says West Virginia is doing a great job of playing a role in the world’s economy, exporting goods at a better rate than most American states.
"West Virginia exports more than $4.5 billion to the European Union. This is more than the national average. You have a focus on Europe which I think is very important," he said.
De Almeida says there are differences though between the United States and European Union countries, in terms of how they think. One example is the death penalty. He says members of the EU are not allowed to support the death penalty.