Quirinale Palace 30/07/2015
I thank President Sergio Amici for his words and for his solicitations and I thank you all for this encounter, and welcome you all to the Quirinale Palace.
This is a very pleasant tradition that was transferred here, at the Quirinale Palace, from the Parliament almost a quarter of a century ago. When the Fan was developed at the end of the 19th Century, the first was given to President Zanardelli: it was a small fan with the signatures of all the parliamentary correspondents. Today the Fan would never be able to contain them all, and this is proof of the spread of information and of its greater pluralism, and it is an important and fortunate condition.
Also this morning's numerous attendance proves how pluralism has grown in information and how we need to jealously harbour and enhance it.
The Speakers of the Chambers of Parliament are no longer given the Fan to combat the summer heat, as in 1893, but perhaps to brave the heat of some fiery parliamentary debates. Here the situation is different, we are more aloof to moments of tensions but ultimately there is a parallel, an analogy between the two: also the Speakers of the two Chambers of Parliament are umpires in the Assemblies that they preside over.
You asked me, as an umpire, if I get cooperation from the players, to quote the metaphor that I took the liberty to make in my swearing-in speech. The ball is still rolling and it is only possible to judge the level of cooperation at the end of the game. However, on the whole, I have no reason to complain about their behaviour. Undoubtedly there has been some turbulence, moments of tension and a few episodes of self-indulgence that would have been better to avoid, also to give greater force and weight to the ideas developed and presented. However, over all, I cannot complain and I am convinced that I can confidently renew my request to players to continue to help me with their fair play.
Also because we must all be aware that rights entail duties and that the perfectly legitimate and legally safeguarded exercise of claiming one's rights must always be accompanied by the awareness of one's duties and limits. The issue of limits is an aspect I would like to emphasise: our Constitution enshrines rules that must be rigorously applied. They must be applied in their full scope. They cannot be broken, not even on the wave of allegedly good intentions, also because I do not know who could ever claim the right to decide what goals are good and what are not. Rules must be obeyed because they are the essence of democracy. All the rules must be obeyed.
One of these rules is the one requiring to respect one's own limits and other people's competences. Every now and then in our Country, we witness the rather widespread tendency to reach beyond our confines and trespass into the sphere of competence of other people, taking over functions that were assigned to others. Instead the rule setting down the obligation to respect the scope of people's competences must always be obeyed because it is also the best way of defending one's own sphere of competence.
This also applies to the relations of the President of the Republic, especially with the Government and with the Parliament. It is inconceivable that the President of the Republic intercept or block political choices that fall under the competence of the Parliament or of the Government. Laws, for example: the President of the Republic is not vested with the power to veto and, as is widely known, can only ask Parliament to review a bill, and only if it is found to be in clear violation of or in conflict with the Constitution.
My duty is to respect the decisions that the Constitution assigns to other bodies. Every President of the Republic has his own ideas. I have my own opinions but I have the duty to put them aside because, if decisions are taken by other bodies that are designated to take them by the Constitution, then I obviously must and will always respect them.
There is a tendency to confuse Constitutional legitimacy or illegitimacy with a value judgment on the decisions. They are two very different things. And I repeat: the President of the Republic must set aside his personal opinions, because his behavioural benchmark can only be the Constitution and the rules enshrined therein, that are dictated in order to guarantee democracy.
Nobody, and less so the President of the Republic, who has no power over policy choices, is, to use your metaphor, a sole man in command of our Country. This is not possible in democracy. Our Constitution outlines a well-balanced system, a carefully and successfully designed system of reciprocal checks and mutual influences between the bodies and powers of the State, and this equilibrium is and will remain in the Constitution. It is perhaps the principal guarantee of the authentic nature of our democracy, as laid down in the Constitution.
It is not by chance that so many regulatory authorities have been established over the years, so many authorities that are independent from the Government and from any other body. It is not by chance that a significant and importantly predominant role is played by the Constitutional Court. And, talking to you parliamentary reporters, I sincerely wish that its full membership will promptly be completed. I hope this might occur before the Constitutional Court resumes work next autumn.
This reference to the Constitution recalls the reference that you, President Amici, made to the reform of the second part of the Constitution. I stated this in my swearing in speech: I hope that the ongoing reform process be brought to completion after years of unsuccessful attempts. It is undoubtedly one of the crucial key points of this legislature.
Allow me only to emphasise that reforming the organisational setup of our democracy essentially has two goals: increasing its effectiveness and the citizens' participation therein. These are the two values that we necessarily aspire to in these cases. On the one hand, enhancing the democratic process, also by improving collaboration between different levels of government and, on the other hand, the participation of citizens, which is the vital lymph of democracy; this is why a poor turnout at elections is a serious reason of concern for everybody, not only for me or for reporters.
On the other hand, there is the need to make our constitutional framework, the organisational framework of our Constitution, more effective because democracy perishes with no or less participation, but also when the decision-making process is inconclusive or inefficient.
The efficiency of our Institutions calls to mind another issue that you mentioned: the issue of legality. These themes are closely interconnected. There can be no real efficiency without legality, which is strongly supported by the efficiency of the public administration.
I will never tire of repeating this: fighting corruption and mafias constitutes an absolute priority, as you had the kindness to recall a short while ago. It is a commitment to civility which must be disseminated throughout society and public institutions are the ones primarily called upon to act rigorously. This is how to fight the jelly-like system that you mentioned, with rigour and through targeted interventions. Rigour means transparency and moderation. This is a priority need of our Country but, in fact, it applies everywhere, because corruption is a constant temptation in any society. The level of corruption recorded in our Country requires a particularly rigorous commitment, also in view of an obvious consideration: where there is less legality, society pays extremely high economic and social costs, which have fallouts on cohabitation as a whole.
Also in view of the weight that corruption and mafia-style crime has on our youth and their future, I will read with special attention the "Mafia-Information Antithesis" report issued by the "Ossigeno per l'Informazione" ("Oxygen for Information") Observatory, which I thank.
You journalists perform an important task from all points of view: civil, professional and social; you too have your duties, your ethics.
You, President Amici, evoked the issue of Europe. Europe is and remains one of our ideals, the historic harbour established thanks to the far-sighted decisions of the Treaty of Rome. Without Europe we would be weaker, at the mercy of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.
We all looked at the images taken in Greece, when we feared it was on the brink of exiting the Euro, feeling great concern for the fate of our friends, the people of Greece. Of course European policies must promote development in order to achieve greater growth than what is recorded today. As I said a few days ago at the Conference of Italian Ambassadors, we cannot hide the feeling that the bonds of solidarity within the Union are becoming weaker. There is a feeling that Europe is stalling because it is in the grips of narrow egoisms and populist sentiments originating from an allegedly misconstrued national interests. Europe needs to be brave and wise. We need to promptly promote a new governance system in the Eurozone to support common rules and common institutions - in addition to the Central Bank - as well as an appropriate and democratic common vision.
Europe needs to review its actions also in another domain: on the drama of refugees Europe is not doing what it ought to, what its history and its civilisation would require it to do. We must nonetheless welcome with satisfaction the agreement reached by the European Council over the distribution, albeit on a voluntary basis, of refugees among the different EU Member Countries.
Regardless of its scope, or of it being on a voluntary basis, it is an important step forward because, for the first time, the European Union has formally acknowledged that the problem of refugees concerns the whole Union and not only the Countries they arrive in. Of course, for it to become effective, it will have to be followed by further significant steps; but this first step is nonetheless important.
In this respect, I would like to submit another point to your attention. Some Countries have revealed to be more generous than others: Sweden, Finland and Romania have accepted the whole quota proposed by the Commission; Ireland, which was not obliged under EU rules, nonetheless spontaneously welcomed a considerable number of refugees. However, the Countries that have taken in two-thirds of the refugees are the Founding Members. This proves that the Founding Members have an important responsibility within the European Union because they are like all the other Countries although they, in some way, shoulder it with greater maturity. They are the advocates of the values that inspired the European Union and European integration.
All this goes to show that the phenomenon of refugees and migrants requires intelligence and farsightedness; it requires firmly helping the Countries which give rise to migration flows, also in order to prevent them from growing even bigger and to avoid having larger and more uncontrollable flows in the near future. Committing to help those who have difficulties in the Countries that originate migration flows is not only the correct thing to do in terms of international cooperation, but it is also in the immediate, present and future interest of Europe.
Allow me to repeat again, in this venue, that democracy will prove its superiority over other regimes thanks to the example it sets and to the respect it has for other Countries, other continents, which have not all opted for democratic coexistence. Democracy will affirm its supremacy if it instils gratitude and admiration for its behaviour, for its welcoming and helping those in difficulty. This message would be capable of defeating the message of hatred and death disseminated by fundamentalist terrorism in so many Countries, spanning from the Middle East to Africa, as well as in the suburbs of European cities.
The danger of terrorism is the major challenge that we have been facing these last few years. We must fight it not only militarily but above all culturally, so as to offer a more persuasive option of coexistence to those in difficulty than the shortcuts, the outbursts and the exasperation underlying the hate campaign launched and disseminated by fundamentalists all over the world.
President Amici, you talked about the need to tackle the social issue, to retrace our Country's threads of coexistence. I took the liberty of mentioning it in my swearing-in speech and I would like to transmit, through you, a message of trust and of hope to our fellow citizens, confirming our utmost commitment for those who suffer and those who are in difficulty.
There are signs of recovery. We need to enhance and stimulate it, and make the best use of it possible. We cannot abandon a whole generation of young people, we cannot abandon the south of Italy and we cannot forget that giving everyone the opportunity to work is one of the principles of our Constitution. This is certainly an ambitious goal but without ambition there can be no politics. Politics is the capacity to make quick, contingent choices, to take the steps that are feasible but always in the forward-looking, profound perspective of ideals; otherwise, the steps taken now would be senseless and futureless.
Historically speaking, democracy cannot be separated from the social dimension. This was the firm conviction of our Constituent Assembly, which was confirmed in the following decades. Democracy takes root and consolidates when inequalities narrow and social opportunities increase for everybody. What is important for our Country's domestic choices and for Europe is to look to the future and break out of the restricting walls of the present.
In the Bible, Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt because she looked backward. We must not make the same mistake, neither Italy nor Europe. We must look forward, plan for the future, because this is the way of also governing well the present.
Thank you very much for the Fan. I heard with pleasure and admiration that it was inspired to the Italian language. I don't know if your choice was dictated by patriotism or by the wish to defend our language, which is so often abused. Italian is a living language and therefore, like all other languages, it is subjected to evolve, grow and develop. However we must take care in defending it, avoiding the use of unnecessary acronyms, of slang abbreviations, unneeded neologisms and overlooking syntax, as it sometimes happens. Language must be defended and the message that you journalists transmit with the Fan is an important message that I fully uphold.
I thank you all for this meeting: it was a wonderful experience, my first as it was yours, President Amici. I would like to express my compliments to Fabiola Napoli, who designed the Fan and to the Academy where she studied.