ICAS Special Contribution

No. 2003-0619-SxS

"Italy in the New Millennium"
and remarks on the upcoming EU Italian Presidency

Stefano Stefanini

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3289
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic Sketch & Links: Stefano Stefanini

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution with written permission to ICAS of Stefano Stefanini. sjk]

"Italy in the New Millennium" and remarks on the upcoming EU Italian Presidency

Stefano Stefanini,
First Secretary to the Italian Ambassador,
Embassy of Italy

(Washington, June 19 2003)


Mr. Bill Anrews
Mr. Mark Grobmyer
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me to be a speaker at the World Leaders Symposium Ambassadorial Briefings. The more so as I’ not an Ambassador…..

I feel honored but also intimidated by the topic….As a timeline the "Millennium" is rather daunting. It stretches much further than any reasonable keynesian "long term"…

Italy has some experience with millenniums. Rome is well into its third one. But the stereotype of the "old" country (as that of the "old" Europe, for that matter) can be misleading.

[Italy as an independent State]

We have a long history but we are relatively new as a nation. In the year 2010 Italy will celebrate our 150th anniversary as an independent country.
In a century and half we have been a monarchy and republic; a dictatorship and a democracy. We fought three wars, four counting the one that originated independence. The defeat in WW2 resulted in a civil war, in the liberation of Italy, in the current democratic Constitution.
We had had colonies. Our economy was largely agricultural. We became a leading industrial nation. We changed many governments maintaining remarkable democratic stability. We suffered from domestic terrorism. We defeated it.
I could go on. The point I am trying to make is that in a short span of time Italy went through profound changes political etc.
The same of course applies to many European countries. To Italians it is compounded by the shorter nationhood.
Often we have been driven by the will to catch up. Since independence we have lived with change and indeed with upheaval be it domestic be it brought from outside.

Against this background the last 50 plus years have been remarkable, and remarkably successful. Again the same applies to Europe. Again Italy stands out… We think that the last half century has made Italy different, better, and not only because contemporary Italians are richer and better off. Although it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Why? The answer lies partly in identity. We have discovered that we are Europeans. We have realized it, we have chosen it, we strive for it, when need be we "make" ourselves Europeans. We have forged a long lasting bond with America. We feel Westerners and part of a wider "Atlantic" community.

We –and this is more recent- have met and taken upon us renewed and widening international responsibilities. First and foremost in our "neighborhoods", namely the Balkans and the Mediterranean, but also increasingly "out area", witness East Timor, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and now Iraq.
Such a broader role in international affairs is an ongoing process.
As a rule we would rather carry out the responsibilities it involves as Europeans and/or as NATO members and under an international, preferably UN, umbrella. But if and when need be we are also prepared to act in a more restricted or selective environment (Albania, Kosovo, Iraq)

[Europe and Italy]

In Europe and in the Atlantic/Western community we have found a sense of belonging; in the peacekeeping and stabilization missions around the globe, as well as in our outreach toward the developing world especially Africa, a growing awareness of Italy’s place in the world.
These three directions because can help us to try to figure out where Italy wants to go in the new century, if not in the new millennium. For us the second half of the past century has been much too successful not to offer a strong guidance for the next one.
Think about the prosperity, the freedom, the democracy, the "identity", the "exclusive memberships" (EU, NATO, G8, OECD etc.) we acquired. Of course we want much of the same. How could we want anything different?

Does this make us opponents to change?

Yes and no.
Yes, in wanting to stay the course, namely in aggressively pursuing further progress in European integration and, at the same time, believing in the fundamentals of a strong, actually stronger, partnership between Europe and the United States.
No, in being willing and ready to take up the new responsibilities and challenges that are arising in the world.
No, in addressing the current threats to global security.
We fully realize that September 11 is a wake up call – for everyone of us.
We have already responded, as Italy, as European Union, in the fight against terrorism. We will continue to do so.
Weapons of Mass Destruction are a major danger to us all. We agree that it requires a common effort and an innovative, pre-emptive approach. We have started to work on it with the United States.
In its new strategic framework and Action Plan the EU will make non proliferation of WMD "the" top priority. Accordingly, it will be addressed by a joint statement to be adopted by the upcoming EU-US Summit of June 25, in Washington.

The notion that Italy, and Europe, do not recognize the real dangers of the present international environment is unsubstantiated and plainly wrong. I have mentioned terrorism and WMD. I could add international organized crime, drugs traffic before moving to the so called "soft" issues – that were mentioned by President Bush in his Krakow speech. We are conservative in so far we treasure the achievements –NATO, the EU, the UN- that took three generations and cost "sweat and tears" and sacrifices; their enduring benefits should not be taken for granted.
But we don’t fear change, we have lived through change

. I really think I can speak as a European Italian as well as an Atlanticist Italian. Italy is committed to European integration no more and no less than to the Atlantic partnership. I will/could come back on this point later: to put it simply you cannot have one without the other.

But why is Europe so relevant to Italy? It is a fascinating question but to answer it would take us on a long detour.
Just let us assume that "feeling" European ("belonging to the Club") has become a fundamental component of contemporary Italian awareness and psyche.
In Italy it is truly bipartisan policy. In order to "be in Europe" we made significant sacrifices and efforts in the past, witness the entry in the euro in the late ‘90s. If and when needed we would do the same, again.

[The EU Presidency]

Today, as we meet, here is a further and more practical reason to associate Italy and the European Union. To forecast Italy’s goals and prospects for the Millennium is mission impossible, to talk about the upcoming (in 12 days) Italian Presidency of the EU becomes much more realistic.

It will probably be the last Presidency as we know it: a rotating Presidency for six months.
Six months represent a miniscule 0.05% of the Millennium. With the benefit of hindsight of future historians our Presidency will be lost in the great stream of events. However, I speak rather with the handicap the unknown (and with some concern on how to get through the next six months…..) and as of now I see three reasons why the next Italian Presidency will be significant or rather –more to the point- is taking place in a short but possibly decisive period:

  • We have to continue in the successful work undertaken in the last decade, to achieve undivided, free, prosperous and stable Europe (the widening). The largest EU enlargement ever is under way and is a gigantic step in that direction. It will be finalized under the next, Irish, Presidency; but ours will lay the ground especially in preparing the 10 new members to fully participate in the work of the Council and in the various institutions.
  • We have to make sure that the new, enlarged, Union can work effectively. The new institutional arrangements (the deepening), enshrined in a European Constitution, must be in place by the time the new members formally join the Union in spring 2004.
  • We have to enhance the Transatlantic Relations (or…mend the fences between Europe and America…) with renewed capacity to pool common interests and tackle common threats (the partnership).
It would be presumptuous to even suggest that any of those can be achieved "by" the Italian Presidency.
The Presidency can be a facilitator, a mediator, an active proponent. At the end of the day the outcome of all issues will depend on the Union and its 15, soon 25, members. And with regard to the last item, it takes two to tango.
Nevertheless widening, deepening and partnership constitute a clear framework of priorities and represent the strategic guidelines for our Presidency.

[Main objectives]

Accordingly, the Italian Presidency will focus on five main objectives.

First, the enlargement process. Beyond the institutional participation, new members must feel included and involved. Bonds and infrastructural networks between new and old members need to be enhanced and created. We want to look beyond the current round: timetable for accession of Bulgaria and Romania in early 2007; implementation of Copenhagen pre-accession strategy for Turkey.

Second, institutional reforms. Convention- Intergovernmental Conference (ICG)-Constitution. It is a tall order with a tight schedule (work to be completed possibly during our Presidency, in any case not later than May 2004), but it is a must. It means agreeing within the next 10 at the latest, on more (qualified) majority rule, on the end of rotating Presidencies, on the rules of common foreign and defense policy etc.

We cannot have an unreformed yet enlarged Union (membership up by 2/3). It would NOT work.

Third, economic competitiveness. Strategy of 2000 Lisbon European Council. Main issues to address: employment; pension and welfare systems; corporate "social accountability"; further liberalization of energy and services markets.

Fourth, the Union’s common foreign policy. It is a difficult area because of national interests entrenched prerogatives, but it is imperative for Europe to strengthen its capacity to speak and act internationally with a single voice.
We are realistically aware of potential differences. As usual disagreements are highlighted, converging and common policies are neglected (the same goes for transatlantic relations).
EU is to play a primary international role especially in:
  • post-conflict/stabilization/reconstruction Iraq
  • "Transatlantic Dialogue"
  • EU-Russia relations
  • restarting Middle East peace process (working with Quartet on fostering "road map")
  • resuming Euro-Mediterranean Partnership
  • role in Balkans
  • defense policy: building credible common European military capabilities (not HQ).
Fifth, security. It involves a number of global issues (the new strategy against proliferation of WMD; terrorism; organized crime) and more "European"/regional concerns (illegal immigration, management of external borders, trafficking in human beings).

[European integration and Atlantic partnership]

The difficulties should not prevent us from setting ambitious goals to our incoming Presidency. Many of them will require much more than our (Italian and European) good will.
We have a strategy; we have priorities. We will do our best.

One last word on the talk of the town. I have been (back) in Washington a month and a half. I have met a number of people, Americans and Europeans, Administration, think tanks, business, friends. I can hardly think of anyone that has not raised "the" issue: the state of the transatlantic relations.
Let me assure that the Transatlantic Relations are on top, on the very top, of Italian priorities: for the Presidency and much beyond it.

It is a must: for Europe as well as for America. European unity cannot be achieved against the United States. If perceived contrary to American interests it will be opposed from Washington – successfully opposed.
For Europe, the consequences would be disastrous. For America the failure of European integration would be just as harmful.

Americans must realize that Europe as a partner –not as rival, not as "counterweight"- remains the best option and the best friend in a dangerous world. Occasional, tactical and even significant disagreements notwithstanding.
We agree on (many) fundamentals; we have a huge array of common interests; we face many of the same threats.
Remember, after September 11, America was not alone.

The United States have actively supported European integration for more than 50 years. We are very grateful. We still need it.
In return the United States could rely on a steady ally and on a stable, pacified Europe. Such stability is largely the result of the success of the European Union. Maintaining stability and security in Europe, helping the European Union to extend it beyond its current borders, toward the Balkans, toward Russia and Ukraine, toward the Mediterranean, is still an overriding American interest and foreign policy goal. America knows only too well the price and the pain of an unsettled or divided Europe.
Make no mistake: European unity needs American support; a stable, viable and secure Europe needs a strong European Union.

Thank you very much

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