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Portuguese Foreign Minister Tells Harvard Students to ‘Dream Big’ at Center for European Studies Talk

The Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho discussed the European Union's response to the war in Ukraine during an event at the Center for European Studies on Tuesday.
The Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho discussed the European Union's response to the war in Ukraine during an event at the Center for European Studies on Tuesday. By Ike J. Park
By Francesco Efrem Bonetti, Crimson Staff Writer

Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho discussed the European Union’s defense strategies during an event at Harvard’s Center for European Studies on Tuesday.

In an interview with The Crimson, Gomes Cravinho also pointed to the importance of responsible activism in academic settings and encouraged students interested in international relations to lean into the power of ideas.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, public concern around Europe’s military security has grown. In years prior, NATO — the defensive alliance between 31 European and North-American countries — occasionally had internal disagreement over how much of their GDP each country should be required to invest in defense.

During the event, Gomes Cravinho explained the entangled history of U.S.-E.U. military relations, from the Cold War to the War on Terror.

In particular, Gomes Cravinho said “the European safety net is becoming more and more tenuous” in the wake of changing security needs and shifting American attitudes toward NATO.

Gomes Cravinho also spoke about the EU’s response to the Russian invasion, highlighting that the European energetic decoupling from Russia has “happened much more quickly than anybody imagined.” While sanctions haven’t forced Russia to halt the war, Gomes Cravinho said he believes that, combined with the costs of military operation, they have definitely harmed the country’s economic progress.

CES Program Manager Albana Shehaj, who organized the event, invited students interested in European policy and international relations to attend.

“Our mission here at the CES is to bring together as many policymakers, academics, student leaders, business leaders, to share with us all their insights in what is happening in the world,” she said in an interview after the event.

Gomes Cravinho emphasized the importance of encouraging students who aspire to work in international politics to “dream big.”

“As diplomats, if you do not want to go beyond recognizing the world as it is and accepting the notion that there’s nothing you can do to change it, then you’re probably in the wrong line of business,” he said.

Still, Gomes Cravinho cautioned against proposing solutions that fail to take into account the realities of the international stage.

“Of course, if one fails to recognize certain realities, you just hit your head against the wall,” he said. “But one should not underestimate the power of ideas to change reality.”

Gomes Cravinho also stressed the importance of freedom of expression and peaceful disagreement in academic settings but acknowledged the impact social activism can have on others in the environment.

“When one engages in social activism, one has gone beyond the realm of intellectual contemplation and debate,” Gomes Cravinho said. “When you go into social activism, then you have a responsibility of thinking what your impact is upon the neighbor, upon anybody else who is interacting.”

“So, the balance between finding the appropriate space for freedom of thinking and the different ethos that is present in social activism is one that people should be aware of,” he added.

—Staff writer Francesco Efrem Bonetti can be reached at

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