Luc Soete, leading economist and former rector of Maastricht University: “Financial crisis is a poison that has seeped into Europe.”
Professor Luc Soete was born in 1950 in the Brussels borough of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. He studied economics in Ghent and then worked at the University of Sussex in the south of England, where he obtained his PhD in 1978. After years of research in the United Kingdom and the United States (among others at Stanford), he moved to Maastricht in 1986, where he was appointed professor of International Economic Relations at the School of Business and Economics.
Two years after his appointment, he set up MERIT – the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology, an international think tank where technological developments and innovation are analysed at the highest possible level. MERIT, which in 2005 became part of the United Nations University (UNU), grew under Soete’s leadership into one of the most prominent research institutes in its field.
In 2010 Soete was appointed dean (head) of the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance (MGSoG). Then in September 2012, he was named rector, the highest office that can be held at what is one of the most prestigious new universities of Europe. Soete was rector for exactly four years: in September 2016, he was succeeded by a leading young researcher from Tilburg, professor Rianne Letschert.
Quite soon after the start of the credit crisis in 2008, Soete saw where European integration was heading. “It is as if the financial crisis is a poison that has seeped into Europe and brought national suspicion back to the surface,” he contended in 2012 in a lecture to the Maastricht University Alumni Circle of South Limburg. “You could say that it has once again highlighted the considerable cultural differences in Europe.” Soete spoke of a fundamental difference in views on income and expenditure between the northern countries and, for example, Greece and Spain. “It has further exacerbated mutual distrust between Northern and Southern Europe,” said the expert on international economics.
Luc Soete – who was made a Commander in the Order of the Crown in Belgium in 2006 – is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Science (KNAW) and of the Advisory Council for Science and Technology (ATW), the body that advises the government and parliament on policy relating to scientific research, technological development and innovation. In 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Ghent University.