Catherine Day, the former Secretary-General of the European Commission, spoke at a Barrett Family Lecture, for Notre Dame in Dublin, last week on the topic “Will the EU survive Brexit?”
Her insightful and positive speech took place at the Notre Dame-Newman Center for Faith and Reason, on St. Stephen’s Green and was organized by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
A. James McAdams, the director of the Nanovic Institute, emphasized how fortunate Notre Dame is to have Catherine Day presenting the Barrett Family Lecture. “As someone who has spent nearly her entire career working for the European Commission,” he said, “Ms. Day is uniquely positioned to enrich our understanding of contemporary Europe. Like few other authorities, she has the experience to provide a nuanced perspective of the many challenges and uncertainties currently faced by the European Union.”
Here is her speech in full:
Day began working for the European Commission in 1979 and served in the cabinets of three consecutive commissioners. In 2005, she was appointed Secretary-General—the top civil-servant position in the European Commission—by President José Manuel Barroso. She remained in the position until 2015 under Barroso’s successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, whom she continues to support as Special Adviser. She was the first woman to hold the position of Secretary-General.
Known by colleagues as "Catherine Day and Night" because of her tireless devotion to her work, Day's accomplishments with the European Commission are numerous. Among many other initiatives, she played a pivotal role in the EU’s post-2004 enlargements, helped craft the Commission’s policies on chemical substances and renewable energy, and was a key negotiator in the development of the EU’s 2014-2020 budget. For her exemplary service, she was awarded the President of Ireland Distinguished Service Award and the Garrett Fitzgerald Gold Medal for International Relations.
Although Day spent most of her career in Brussels at the European Commission, she has deep roots in Ireland. She was born in Mount Merrion, Dublin in 1954 and studied at University College Dublin, where she earned a B.A. in Economics and Politics and an M.A. in International Trade and Economic Integration. She was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from University College Dublin, University of Limerick, and Griffith College Dublin.
Day continues to be heavily involved in Irish and European affairs. In addition to serving as Special Adviser to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, she is currently a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Center, a board member of the European Movement Ireland, and a board member of the Institute of International and European Affairs. She also serves as Chair of the Governing Body at University College Cork.
Her lecture was the second in the Barrett Family Lecture Series. The inaugural lecture was given by Peter Sutherland, former Director-General of the World Trade Organization and Chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Day served on Sutherland’s cabinet when he was European Commissioner of Competition.
The Barrett Family Lecture Series was established through the generous support of R. Stephen and Ruth Barrett. The initiative brings prominent leaders in the areas of business, politics, and the arts to the Notre Dame Dublin Global Gateway to share their views on issues of major importance to the understanding of contemporary Europe with Notre Dame students and the wider community.
For more information visit nanovic.nd.edu.