Rome - Chamber of Deputies 22/03/2017
Madam President of the Chamber,
Mr President of the Senate,
Mr Prime Minister,
and Representatives of the European Parliament,
I am honoured to be able to address this formal joint session with which the Italian Parliament has chosen to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.
In three days' time, the Heads of State and Government from Union member nations will be gathering at the Capitol in Rome, in the very same hall in which the Union came into being.
The commemoration of this anniversary entails undertaking a reflection on the process of European integration, which is all the more pressing given that, for the first time, a country - the United Kingdom, a member since 1973 - is leaving the Union.
A first question is what was the situation in Europe and the circumstances in the world prior to the Treaties: whether they were simpler or more complex than today's.
To begin with, the founders were driven by strong international instability characterized by a bipolar competition across-the-board.
With the exception of the Soviet Union, Europe emerged from World War II divided and weakened.
The demarcation line between the two superpowers ran right through the heart of the continent, sundering the continent in two for a long period of time.
A few years earlier, the Berlin Blockade and the Korean War had generated a tangible threat of a third world war. In 1955, it was only with great difficulty that the Austrian question was settled by resorting to a neutrality clause. An insurrection broke out in Algeria, after Tunisia and Morocco won their independence in 1956. That same year also saw the invasion of Hungary and the Suez Canal crisis. This marked the end of an era, with Europe's powers disabused of any residual colonialist delusion.
This precarious set of circumstances meant that Europe was in need of a new outlook.
The Treaty for the Steel and Coal Community was signed in 1951, a year after the project for a European Defence Community, which however was shelved in France.
It was Italy that became the driving force, first through the 1955 Messina Conference, and then in 1956 with the Venice Conference, with Gaetano Martino, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Segni government, at the lead.
Backed by democratic consensus in their home nations, the fathers of Europe who brought the Treaties into being were not visionaries but men of politics who, well aware of the challenges and risks they were facing, found a way to tackle them.
Men who had the courage to transform the weaknesses, vulnerabilities and anxieties of their respective populations into strengths, pooling together each country's capabilities in the effort of building an open, overarching society in which liberty, democracy and cohesion would be mutually guaranteed.
The Europe we have come to know in these past few years has proved to be a vital tool for stability, safeguarding peace, economic growth and progress by advancing a rights- and civilization-based social model unequalled up to now.
Europe was gradually built by the joint effort of former enemies of the Second World War and later by the former adversaries in the "Cold War" who until a few years earlier, had belonged to alliances poised to battle for forty years.
If we look back at how far we have come, it is clear that the path has never been easy ever since the beginning.
If we look at the annals, we see that the path to integration has been complicated all along, starting with France's "empty chair" policy in the mid-1960s.
Next came what German Foreign Affairs Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher would later define as "Eurosclerosis" during the 1970s, courageously overcome at the start of the following decade above all as a result of an Italian and German initiative.
Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo spearheaded this drive, working alongside figures like German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the President of the French Republic, François Mitterrand and even US President Ronald Reagan.
The oil shock, soaring inflation, and mass unemployment were the most pressing problems to be tackled at that time, against an international backdrop marked by particularly strident clashes between the two blocs.
The impetus towards European unity has always been stronger than any entrenchment or overzealous temporary distinction pursued by individual governments or groups of countries, playing a significant role in fostering the evolution of international relations.
Indeed, the common needs underpinning a shared aspiration to ensure stability to the liberty and independence of European nations were pressing, starting with the six founding nations: France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
Today, Europe seems to have almost turned in on itself. As aware as its leadership is of the steps that need to be taken, it remains hesitant when it comes to getting them underway.
As in the past, there is a need for forward-looking visions and an ability to embark on new and courageous paths.
A few figures illustrate this.
In 2000, the Union and its Member States produced 26.5% of the world's Gross Domestic Product. By 2015, this percentage had slipped by as much as four points.
Over the last twenty years, the population of the entire European continent - also outside the Union's borders - has remained more or less stable at around 750/800 million people. At the same time, Africa's population, which today is around 1 billion, could double in just twenty-five years.
These two figures alone make it clear that Europe as a whole runs the risk of becoming a minor player on the international scenario, while across the world "giant" states continue to grow.
No European nation, on its own, can guarantee the effective independence of its decisions. Considering the dimension and scale of the issues, no return to old forms of national sovereignty can assure peace, security, well-being and prosperity to European citizens because no European nation alone will ever be able to stand on the international stage, expecting to influence events.
It is as true today as it was sixty years ago: we need a united Europe to serve our Continent's needs for development and prosperity, which are indissolubly bound up with our collective capacity to make our voices heard on the world stage, asserting the values, identities and interests of our people.
In 1957 and even before, when founding fathers Adenauer, De Gasperi, Monnet, Schuman and Spaak conceived the first blueprint for integration, European identity was neither a matter of doubt or debate. There was no need to use abstract metaphors.
The grief, hunger, rubble, disease and existential angst caused by the two world wars - East to West, North to South - brought together millions of Europeans who, ever more insistently, asked their respective ruling classes "Why?", followed by a resounding cry of "Never again!".
The consequences of having betrayed the values of European civilization not once but twice over the course of a few years were clear and evident to all.
The founding fathers' call to rally grew out of the memory that a Europe of openness, solidarity, art and science; a Europe of free thinking, tolerance and integration; and a Europe of trade needed to find its way again and this was something that could only be achieved together, uniting the resources and the future of the Continent's nations and of its peoples.
The persistence of so many separate, sovereign European states appeared to them to be, in this sense, anachronistic, no less than had been the case in sixteenth-century Italy, when the country's free communes and small principalities before the encroachment of powers like Spain and France.
Ten years earlier, on 29 July 1947, a few months after he was elected President of the Italian Republic, in this very chamber Luigi Einaudi announced that he would be voting in favour of the Peace Treaty in a speech that I quote to you now:
"In vain did sovereign states erect high customs barriers around themselves to maintain their own economic self-sufficiency. All that these barriers were good for was impoverishing their peoples, stirring them up against one another, prompting them to talk a strange and incomprehensible language about living space and geopolitical necessities, each one of them proclaiming exclusive excommunications against foreign immigrants, as if a population ferociously shrinking in on itself can generate wealth and power rather than misery and discontent." He went on to add his hopes for a United States of Europe: "It is not a question of preaching. What matters is that the parliaments of the tiny states of which our divided Europe is made up renounce a portion of their sovereignty in favour of a parliament in which they are represented, a chamber elected directly by the peoples of Europe in unity, without distinction between one state and another and proportionate to their number of inhabitants, with individual states represented in the Chamber of States in equal number."
In other words, what Einaudi was has been telling us for seventy years - and this remains true to this day - is that the true alternative to fragmentation and irrelevancy for each of these States is on the contrary a process of unification based not on the hegemony of the strongest but peaceful advancement through federal and democratic institutions (as also Altiero Spinelli sought), with equal rights and duties for all States, large and small, that freely decided to become members.
Indeed, one year earlier, Winston Churchill had expressed his hope for a structure to rebuild the family of European peoples and make it possible to live in peace, security and liberty: in his words, "a kind of United States of Europe".
Over its sixty-year history, Europe has succeeded in keeping the key founding promise of its identity.
War has been banished and, for the first time since time immemorable, three successive generations have lived without experiencing such barbarity.
It took others to point this out. In 2012, to the amazement of some, a country that is not part of the Union awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.
When bitter armed conflict closed in on the Union's borders in the Balkan Peninsula, despite initial hesitation and indecision, Europe realized the importance of helping its neighbouring peoples to emerge from a crisis that seemed unsolvable.
The Union chose to offer these countries a political haven within the European framework. It is therefore a source of great satisfaction to see that Slovenia and Croatia are part of the Union today and that the other nations are moving along a path of gradual integration that Italy follows attentively, favours and encourages.
Nor should we forget the fact that being part of the Union helped Northern Ireland put an end to a long and bloody trail of violence.
Over the years, the European Union has embraced peoples and countries restored to liberty after a history of dictatorship: Greece, Portugal and Spain found safe anchorage for their futures within the European Community. They were followed by veterans of Soviet influence, nations that after 1989 became part of a Europe that until then had lacked the input of its Central and Eastern peoples and cultures.
The plurality of sensibilities, political positions and national traditions within the Union today have led some to question whether it is wise to move ahead rapidly along the path to enlargement.
And yet not even Europe can afford to postpone its rendezvous with history when it calls; nor may it surrender to separation and - much less - to amputation. On the contrary, we should be practising and enhancing mutual responsibility and solidarity in sharing benefits and burdens.
European identity is constituted by the ensemble of each of our cultural and historical heritages, alongside its heritage of shared principles developed jointly over the last few decades. What we must do now is look ahead and find the right tools to ensure that integration may continue.
These years of peace, well-being and prosperity in Europe have enabled us to achieve goals of which the founding fathers would, despite limitations and shortcomings, quite rightly be proud.
The many benefits for its citizens lie in Europe's profile.
It is the thousands of domestic customs rules and regulations that have been abolished to enable the circulation of people and goods - something that is of great value to an exporting nation like Italy.
It is the Italian products that are arranged on supermarket shelves across European cities, as more than 60% of Italy's exports go to Union nations.
It is the one hundred million tourists that every year, without needing a passport, move freely and unhindered across the Schengen Treaty area, many of them in Italy.
It is the millions of young people who study freely in European universities thanks to the Erasmus programme.
It is the common currency which, in a short space of time, has become the world's second most important reserve currency. As a result of European Central Bank policy, the euro has significantly brought down credit costs, safeguarding the savings of enterprises and households alike.
It is the improved environmental protection standards in our cities. It is the development of renewables and the reduction in harmful gas emissions. It is the thousands of protected areas that safeguard our quality of life.
It is the certified safety of food that protects our health, guaranteed by the traceability of the foods consumed in Europe.
It is the safety of our children's toys.
It is the thousands of patents awarded European-wide protection.
It is the trade agreements that regulate and guarantee relations with other nations.
It is the greater security offered through the prospect of a common defence policy, recently placed back on the agenda.
It is the internal protection of our social model.
It is the Charter of Nice ensuring the fundamental rights of Union citizens.
Overturning the expression attributed to Massimo d'Azeglio, we might say: "Now that we have made Europeans, it is time to make Europe".
Indeed it is the people, especially young people, who already live the experience of this Europe, and who are the guarantors of the irreversibility of European integration. The Union must direct its attention and efforts towards them.
The hallmarks of European civilization are our values of individual and collective freedom, tolerance towards others' choices, and an openness to ways of thinking that come from other contexts, without abdicating compliance with local laws and traditions. Albeit with delays and shortcomings, these values have spread and asserted themselves far beyond Europe's borders, helping to build an order in which the concepts of solidarity, mutual support among the different levels on which our societies are structured, and harmony between the public and private sectors to reduce major social scourges, are strong and distinctive characteristics of what Europe is.
Solutions to the sovereign debt crisis and the economic slowdown cannot entail a curtailment of social rights within member states. Nor are they an excuse for coarse definitions of Northern and Southern Europe.
This is the soul of our Europe. This is our identity.
If we want a stronger European Union, this is where we must start.
Every time, individually or collectively, that we have forgotten this inspirational thrust, perhaps unconsciously we have helped turn a major political undertaking into a technical and bureaucratic programme with which the citizens of Europe have sometimes found it difficult to identify.
The economic and financial downturn has shaken the social fabric of our nations, while at our gates, wide-ranging instability and epochal historical events - migration for one - have undermined Europe's capacity to meet the expectations of its citizens.
The challenges to which the European Union must rise, above and beyond financial and migration-related issues, the Union's Eastern and Mediterranean borders, and terrorist campaigns, once again highlight the need to rise to the challenge of reforming the Treaties. This is unavoidable, as is pointed out in the Report by the Committee of Wise Men presented recently to the President of the Chamber of Deputies.
The ambitions of the Treaty of Lisbon, today in force, appear ill-suited to the nature and breadth of these challenges, and to the pursuit of the goal of achieving ever-closer continental integration.
building the future requires Italy and Europe to contribute every available resource, an extraordinary unity of intent and a robust faith in the founding values of the process of integration.
What we need is not a non-impossible return to a past that no longer exists nor walls that merely push the problems onto others without resolving them, but solidarity between nations, solidarity across the generations and solidarity among citizens who share the same civilization.
When a newly free and democratic Italy was taking its first steps as a Republic, De Gasperi said, "To stay the course we must draw on the reconstructive and unifying energies of all Europe. All we can do, in order to counter the march of instinctual and irrational forces, is to call on our common civilization: the solidarity of reason and a sense of liberty and justice."
Now more than ever, we must make these words our own.