FLAD’s podcast is back for its second season. The Atlantic Talks kick off this Monday, now in a biweekly format, with the distinguished guest: Mário Centeno, Governor of Banco de Portugal and former Minister of Finance and President of the Eurogroup.

Following the success of the first season of our podcast, FLAD decided to move forward with the second season of the Atlantic Talks. And we start in the best way, having as first guest Mário Centeno. The Governor of Banco de Portugal, which became known to the Portuguese as the Minister of Finance in the last two socialist governments, spoke with Filipe Santos Costa about his experience in Harvard, the differences between the US and Europe, and even the way he sees the future of European policy.

In 1995 he left for Cambridge, to complete his education in what is considered the best university for economics in the world, Harvard. It was there, where several Nobel Prizes in economics passed through, that he completed his Doctorate, with a thesis in labor economics. Since then, and after a long career at Banco de Portugal, he was the longest-running Minister of Finance in the history of Portuguese democracy, and he was also the first Portuguese to take the leadership of the Eurogroup, until he returned to Banco de Portugal, now as Governor.

In a conversation with Filipe Santos Costa, Mário Centeno recalled his experience in Cambridge, demonstrated his knowledge of the Portuguese diaspora on the East Coast of the US, and how Portuguese radio accompanied him on his travels.

“You can go from Boston to New York always listening to Portuguese radio, it was an experience I did. There is an area in Connecticut where you have to be lucky, but other than that we were able to do it, and, therefore, we also did these experiences of going through the United States with a permanent connection to Portugal.” – Mário Centeno.

About his university experience, Mário Centeno says that the difference, as a student, was that in Harvard all the conditions for the student to devote himself 100% to his studies are provided. “There is no excuse we may want to have not to do what a student is supposed to do. All resources are available all the time, 24 hours a day, there are no closed doors, there are no teachers who say they don’t have time now.”

But the differences with the academy go further. Having studied at a university where many people left for top positions in the US administration, the Governor of Banco de Portugal explains that there is a more open culture of public service on the part of academia and a greater openness on the political side to accept scholars, and even recalls a particular case to illustrate this distancing that exists in Portugal.

“When I left the academy – and in part Banco de Portugal but in my studies – and my job was to write papers and books, there was a temptation on the political side to confront me with the results that I had obtained in my research and what was the political practice that I was following. I remember having to answer in the Portuguese Parliament that it would be a disaster if the abstracts of my papers were passed on to the law. That doesn’t make any sense. (…) There is no effective understanding of what contribution the academy can make to normal political life, we are now faced with similar examples in the pandemic we are living in, unfortunately. There is no custom of this and there is little permeability. [It is a] very complex [relationship], on one side and on the other, full of apprehension and difficulties. Contrary to what happens in the United States.” – Mário Centeno.

At a time when there are many issues regarding the economic recovery needed in the post-pandemic scenario, the Governor of Banco de Portugal also stressed that, in his view, discussions involving comparisons or attempts to copy certain parts of other countries that will have faster or better results are misleading and should be discouraged.

“It is not possible to transplant a small piece of Denmark and put it in Portugal. The institutional set of norms is completely different, and equally, I think, and that is why it is for good and for bad, effective. We have to get better. They, in Denmark, too, and in the United States the same thing. This war of models that often in a Manichean way is taken in the discussion is very misleading.” – Mário Centeno.

Every 15 days we will have a new episode, with new interviews, new perspectives, interesting and important conversations on the fundamental topics of society, always with a connection to the United States.

You can listen to the new episode of Atlantic Talks where you usually listen to your podcasts. You can also find this episode in the links below.