Several important issues, which will need to be addressed by the Union in various sectors, were presented during our discussion this morning.
They are all issues of great import and may be tackled in an effective and profitable manner, if there is a climate of willingness to work together.
I would like to put forth a reflection on this topic, tying in with what President Niinistö said regarding the spirit of Europe.
Yesterday we spoke about the insecurities which characterize our public opinions; insecurities that are rooted in various factors but which bring about a climate where some respond with: "our national community first".
This slogan 'us first' is spreading across the world and, if it spreads within the Union, is a very dangerous virus.
Two days ago, at the European Parliament, Jean Claude Juncker made a fitting distinction between patriotism and nefarious nationalism, and we run the risk of a resurgence of the virus of ardent nationalisms within the Union.
We are celebrating the centenary of the independence of Latvia and the other Baltic countries, but it is also the centenary of the end of the First World War, followed, after scarcely twenty years, by the Second World War.
I am the eldest among all those in attendance and this dubious privilege leads me to point out that I was born during the bombings and, perhaps for this reason, to this day I have an innate mistrust, and an innate idiosyncrasy, towards any danger relating to nationalism and wars.
This fundamental aspect calls for reflection, as we run the risk of reintroducing a climate within the Union that is not merely competitive but of opposition, which leads to contrast, then to hostility, and we do not know what it will ultimately lead to.
We cannot speak about the future of Europe without looking at its past.
The Second World War placed history on an armament level. Thus, some countries were annexed to one of the winning powers, while others were subjected to its dominion: a dozen countries, which have since found freedom and real independence at the end of the Soviet system. We could likewise include others that were already part of the tsarist empire.
This is the Europe’s past and it is not a distant past: not even thirty years ago.
Many countries, including those of the Western Balkans, have regained their history.
In fact, history did not stop with the fall of the Soviet regime and the Soviet system, as in the title of Fukuyama's book; on the contrary, history has begun to flow again.
It emerged from the frost of Eastern Europe and began to flow once more.
We must reflect upon what was, and is, the significance of this process, which has occurred, of European integration. What moved six countries, in 1950 - '51, to merge coal and steel, that is, the bases of the war effort of the previous decades? What brought those six countries to unite the market and atomic energy and give life to the European Community, just a few years later? What led, fifteen years later, to the first expansion with subsequent additions, and then, after the Soviet system fell, to the reunification of Europe within the Union?
What was the purpose, the spirit behind it?
It was to abandon the past by sharing the future as Europeans.
Today this is all being called to question. We must show our public opinions, our fellow citizens, in a clear and obvious manner, that even the current achievements, the single market, the Schengen area, the monetary union, partake of this same spirit, have the same goal: uniting the future of the Europeans.
This is a historically significant reason for the future, when compared with the past, that no movement can challenge this historical value. However, it must be explained in a more effective and adequate manner to our fellow citizens and to the rulers.
In addition to this effort to share the future of the Europeans, we must also consider that without this perspective Europe will not count for anything in the world.
Yesterday we spoke of the role of the United States, Russia and China. Which of our countries, even the most solid and prosperous, could act as a spokesperson to oppose or discuss, amicably or non-amicably, with the giants of the international community?
Likewise from the point of view of safety, as regards possible arising of hostilities from one of the larger countries, what could be more effective? A Union weakened by internal rivalries, where everyone stands alone, or a cohesive, compact Union, which strengthens all its member countries?
These are rhetorical questions with obvious answers, but we must aid our public opinions in understanding these truisms.
Clearly, we have often made mistakes in believing results to have been acquired, by taking certain conditions for granted. Rather, it must be made clear, also to the young generations, that these conditions are never acquired forever, nor foregone forever.
Even when we speak about the EU budget we must carefully guard against the logic of give and take.
Italy is an active contributor to the Union. However, I have always refused to consider these relationships in terms of giving and taking, partly because the benefits of integration can rarely be fully monetized. Accounting calculations do not define the advantage that the Union ensures all its members. This is something that bears explaining, because we run the risk of haggling amongst ourselves, amongst our countries, regarding accounting reports.
This can be useful at times with the electorates, but beware not to indulge irrational impulses that develop in public opinion and then lead their fellow citizens to bankruptcy, or worse.
Our paramount need is to increase the perception of the value of the Union and of what would be the consequences of slowing down, dwindling, or reducing the integration.
We talked a lot about the next European Parliament, about the next European elections. New political movements have appeared. There are also several new majorities in some countries. I believe that this should not be a cause for alarm because it is part of the physiology of democratic life. New movements, when faced with reality, mature in comparison with it. Above all our public opinions, as everywhere, periodically have a physiological desire for change in the ruling classes. And this should not be a cause for worry.
On the other hand, we must resolutely reiterate that there are some inalienable points, some fundamental points of the Union, which its existence and character are based upon, and which constitute the bases of European civilization: individual liberties, the division of powers, respect for the rules established within countries and within the Union. These fundamental points may not be compromised. Less alarmed by changes in political movements or ruling classes.
All this should increasingly propel us to recall the beautiful moment which took place in March of last year in Rome, in memory of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the treaties of Rome, with a document signed by all the countries. A document whose objective was to relaunch the integration site to help it proceed.
The advancement of integration has always been difficult, because is an inevitable comparison between needs and points of view; nevertheless the course of integration must be resumed.
Only in this way will Europe be able to not only escape the resurgence of its tragic past, but also be authoritative in the international community and promote stability, progress and well-being.
From the Western Balkans - regarding which we feel the need to resume the process of rapprochement with the Union, which is indispensable to guarantee an increasingly positive relationship with these countries - until such a time as they are able to enter the Union - to the relationship with Africa, the Union can play a leading role - even for the benefit of its fellow citizens and its member countries - only through the spirit spoken of by the Finnish president.
Speech by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella at the second session of the 14th Informal