Interview with European Union Ambassador to the United States David O’Sullivan
Ambassador O’Sullivan’s inspiration for service and multilateral relations comes from his family background. The Ambassador was naturally exposed to the values of international cooperation from his father who in his service with the Irish Defense Forcesundertook UN peacekeeping missions. The Ambassador’s family background made him interested in world affairs early on and inspired him to enter diplomatic service, first for his home country of Ireland and later for the European Union.
Throughout the interview, Ambassador O’Sullivan shared his strong conviction for an integrated Europe and the multilateral system. He highlighted the success of the EU, which is now the wealthiest single market in the World and realized the centuries-old dream of a united Europe. More than anything, Ambassador is most proud of the Erasmus Program, a flagship educational program that gives phenomenal opportunities for European students to work or study abroad in other member States. The Ambassador is always heartened to meet and see young people who have personally grown after completing the educational program.
Ambassador O’Sullivan does not share the increasingly popular sentiment that the World is becoming more isolationist and nationalist. His experience at EU has taught him that, even in most difficult political situations and issues where member States are divided, finding common ground is possible when States uphold the values of respect for diversity, honesty, and openness. He is extremely proud that the EU has not only succeeded in creating wealth through integration, but also successfully utilized its consensus building power to redistribute its resources to help the less well-off communities across the continent.
When asked about his current position, Ambassador highlighted that EU-US relationship is the single most important and critical alliance for the member States. He highlighted that the EU does not always agree with the US, but his position as the Ambassador allows him to “manage” and minimize the small differences. But overall, Ambassador O’Sullivan believes that the United States and Europe share overwhelmingly similar principles as well as interests and the transatlantic alliance remains firm and strong as ever.
Having served as the Chief Operating Officer of European External Action Service, Secretary General of the European Commission, and the Director General for Trade, Ambassador O’Sullivan has represented the EU in some of the most difficult and acrimonious challenges that the Europe has faced. But Ambassador struggled to name some of the most difficult moments for him throughout decades of public service. He reminisced that all challenges within the EU were surmountable and he was able to maintain a strong sense of service and optimism throughout every hardship he has faced.
Ambassador O’Sullivan ended his interview with humbling advice for future public servants. He reminded us that public servants should never presume that they know best. Above all else, they cannot allow their position or arrogance distract them from their mission - to truly serve and represent the will of the people they serve. Ambassador also compelled young people to remain true to themselves and develop strong personal integrity. There is surely a lot we, young people, can learn from Ambassador O’Sullivan and his commitment to service.