“CONNECTING WITH WARMTH”
Elena Palloni, PhD in Political Philosophy and International Relations, has extensive experience in Public Administration, specifically in the Defence field. She is a senior civil servant with over 20 years of experience in a broad variety of positions both in local and central government, mainly at the Italian Ministry of Defence. Currently, Elena is working at the Department for European policies of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers’ dealing with different counterparts. She also has been the university’s lecturer and has published research papers related to the Defence environment. During her professional career, she has been appointed in many advisory roles, as well as in different national or international committees. However, Elena’s life is not only work, but she also has so many interests and she enjoys life to her fullest. She is enthusiastic by nature, she has a strong passion for reading, traveling, and sailing. Elena has always the urge to share good vibes and her passion for life with the people she encounters. She is a very present aunt and wife, who really enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has traveled and lived in many different places, where she developed strong bonds of friendship with people around the world, people that have become her “framily”, as she calls them. Elena is a citizen of the world, but in her heart, she is always bringing her family and her hometown, Rimini. Elena Palloni is an expert in Political Theory that you will really love to meet… Here is another unmissable story of an outstanding professional woman!.
As the summer grasped, I started to think about all the nice memories I have by the seaside. It is that great desire to relax, sun, and sea that pushes most people in Italy to escape from cities and invade the beautiful beaches along the peninsula. The same holiday desire that I had every time the summer came during my university years when studying at the UNIBO. The closeness of Bologna to the renowned paradise of fun and beaches, the Riviera Romagnola, was an advantage that I jumped at as soon as I passed my exams. The enchanting Riviera Romagnola: Rimini with the legacy of its homegrown film director Federico Fellini, Cervia with its historic salt pans, Milano Marittima constructed last century by Milanese builders, hundreds of top quality seafood restaurants, thousands of piadina kiosks selling the famous local flatbread, millions of overflowing gelato cones. Every sport, health, and shopping facility your heart desires and some of top Italy’s nightclubs for evening entertainment… the Riviera promises something for everyone.
The appeal of the Riviera Romagnola today is all down to the shrewd charm of the Romagnoli. They have earned a reputation for unequaled seaside hospitality. Sun, sea, sports, great cuisine, fun, and even culture are the factors contributing to a Riviera vacation well-spent. But what is the best of the Riviera Romagnola? Definitely, it’s people! The Riviera’s winning card has long exhibited is Romagnoli’s innate sense of warmth and hospitality. While remembering my Riviera holidays that sense of warmth and hospitality came immediately to my mind, and it came back again as soon as I met the charming fellow PWA member, Elena Palloni.
Elena Palloni, a truly charming, lovely, and hospitable Romagnola, is living and working in Rome. She is a senior civil servant with over 20 years of experience in a broad variety of positions both in local and central government (mainly at the Italian Ministry of Defence), currently working as Senior Officer at the EU Affairs Department of the Presidency of the Council of Ministries. Elena has also recently served at the PWA Election Committee, together with another valuable long-term PWA member, Lisa Rosen, in order to select the right members for the new PWA Board, while bringing her expertise in negotiation to the whole selection process. As the famous top-level international negotiator Chris Voss stands, negotiation is not about losing or winning, successful negotiation is a collaboration rooted in empathy. I totally agree with him. Hence, I publicly thank Elena and Lisa for their outstanding work, honoring also this Voss’s concept when serving PWA. Great negotiation is about great collaboration. Well done ladies!
Speaking about negotiation, at the European Affairs Department of the Presidency of the Council of Ministries, Elena Palloni has the interesting and important responsibility to follow the definition of a shared national position, promoting Italian views and interests towards the European Union, while dealing with different dossiers relating to European policies. Her tenacious personality and deep understanding of the Public Administration, especially the Defense environment, are certainly an advantage in the bilateral and multilateral negotiations in which she has participated. “I always adopt a positive attitude and exert myself to understand the others’ perspective even in the toughest negotiations, in order to reach a shared consensus”, she shared. These characteristics brought her to be appointed in many advisory roles in fields such as Labour Unions’ negotiation, or international armament cooperation, or international crisis management, as well as in different national or international committees. Elena Palloni has always tried to bring a positive and practical women’s perspective to her negotiation experiences, and this attitude has always been much appreciated.
Actually, Elena’s first encounter with PWA was related to this approach of hers. She was a keynote guest speaker at one of our PWA Conferences speaking about the “Importance of gender in military operations”, a couple of years ago. PWA has conquered her with its well-known international environment and openness offering professional women in Rome a pleasant hub to connect. From then on, Elena decided to become an active PWA member. “I like the PWA atmosphere: it attracts fellow professional women with a never-stop learning mindset, like mine. PWA gives me the opportunity to follow my need of giving back, as I want to positively influence people and make a difference. The Association is the place where I find people with similar inclinations, interests, and capabilities… a place to find what unites us, despite our different backgrounds and points of view”, she said.
The more I talked with Elena, the more I discovered that she has the real essence of the Romagnoli inside. She is not only a warm, charming person but a real “people person”, with an outgoing personality, ready to connect with others, always curious to know more about who is in front of her with no judgments. She loves meeting different people, both on workplace and leisure occasions. “I believe there’s something to learn from everyone. I find it deeply enriching”, she declared, “I consider that there are more things that unite us (as human beings), than those that separate us. Our human side is universal!”
Perhaps, the deep humanity that Elena Palloni showed me during our talk comes from her family roots. Eldest of three, born in a very united Italian family, she has the legacy from her parents of high-standard principles and values that Elena still carries on in her heart guiding her life, as her North Star. Her mother was the most caring, generous, and altruistic person she ever met, not in the traditional Italian way, while her father is a very open-minded person who never stops learning and sharing his knowledge with others. “From my Mum, I learned to never fear the judgment of others and never to be judgemental towards others. From my Dad I learned to never give up trying to be better”, she confessed, “We are very close as a family, but we are also very independent”. Elena’s parents supported her in every choice she made, including going to Milan to achieve her degree in International Business Management from Bocconi University.
Elena Palloni is a life-long learner. Her academic background spans from an International Business Management degree from Bocconi University in Milan (1995) to a Political Sciences Master degree from Roma 3 (2010), and from a Defence Procurement Management degree from Roma Tor Vergata (2012) to a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy and International Relations from LUISS University of Rome (2017). Without mentioning the multiple courses made at the Military College, the Scuola Superiore della Pubblica Amministrazione, the Institute of Advanced Studies in National Defence (IHEDN, France), and the NATO Defence College. However, Elena doesn’t keep knowledge learned for herself and relentlessly pursued her research interest in the field of international relations, and published different articles, primarily related to the Defence environment.
While chatting with Elena, looking at her sweet smile and enjoying her welcoming open attitude, it came naturally to me to ask her how come her professional background and expertise was forged mainly at the Italian Ministry of Defence, an environment that is not famous for being open, flexible or democratic, and apparently opposed to her way of being. Thus, Elena generously explained that thanks to her husband, Luca, the love of her life and a Navy Officer, she perceived that the general impression from the outside about the military environment is not the reality. In fact, Elena decided to join the Navy too, as Reserve Officer and started a path in which she could include her innate critical thinking in military relations. “I am a free thinker, but I do not defy authorities. I follow the rules. You must well know the rules in order to change them, from the inside, if need be”, she clarified, “the military structure is a result-oriented structure, more adaptive, flexible, and with less bureaucracy than the ordinary Public Administration. I appreciate this fact, and during my professional career, I was lucky enough to find bosses who knew how to listen to me despite the differences in ranks, in order to reach the institutional goals”.
At this point, I couldn’t avoid noticing that her sparkling blue eyes get even brighter when talking about that special Navy Officer that has been married to her for more than 25 years, her husband Luca. He was her high school sweetheart, a special person to share with, the different aspects of life always with a smile. “We laugh a lot together. We know each other very well”, she giggled. With him, Elena traveled and lived in many different places in Italy and abroad (Egypt, Bahrein, USA, Malta), where she created strong bonds of friendship. They both love the outdoor activities and enjoy hiking in the mountains as well as sailing in the Mediterranean and beyond.
Elena Palloni is definitely a person that worth knowing. She is somebody that I would love to call a friend, a person who shares contagiously her joy for life. Closing this interview, Elena greeted me with one of her beautiful smiles, chuckled, and said “No matter where I live I always bring in my heart my family and my hometown, Rimini -which taught me the meaning of hospitality since childhood”. Surely, wherever she will be, Elena will shine and will always be true to her heart. Hope to see you next time soon Elena, in the meantime I wish you “Fair winds and following seas”!
By Luisa Lopez