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Clegg was educated at the University of Cambridge, the University of Minnesota, and the College of Europe, before becoming a journalist for the Financial Times and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
Through his paternal grandmother Clegg is of 1/4 Baltic-German descent: his paternal grandmother, Kira von Engelhardt, Baroness von Smolensk, was a Baltic-German noblewoman, and the granddaughter of Attorney-General of the Russian senate, Ignatiy Platonovich Zakrevsky.He then moved to New York City, where he worked as an intern under Christopher Hitchens at The Nation, a progressive liberal magazine, where he fact-checked Hitchens's articles.Clegg next moved to Brussels, where he worked alongside Guy Spier for six months as a trainee in the G24 co-ordination unit which delivered aid to the countries of the former Soviet Union.However, Conservative MP Greg Hands has a record of CUCA members for 1986–1987, and Clegg's name appears on the list.Hands noted that "for the avoidance of any doubt, there was only one 'N Clegg' at Robinson College ...It has been alleged that Clegg joined the Cambridge University Conservative Association between 19.
Clegg has maintained he has "no recollection of that whatsoever".
In April 1994, he took up a post at the European Commission, working in the TACIS aid programme to the former Soviet Union.
For two years he was responsible for developing direct aid programmes in Central Asia and the Caucasus, worth €50 million.
[he] is listed in the 'Robinson College Record', under 'Freshmen 1986'.
After university, he was awarded a scholarship to study for a year at the University of Minnesota, where he wrote a thesis on the political philosophy of the Deep Green movement.
In 2004 Clegg explained to the Select Committee on European Union that the aim of MEPs like himself, who had been active in the debate on the EU's negotiating mandate, was to obtain the right to ratify any major WTO deal entered into by the European Union.