Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,
Mr. President of the Chamber of Deputies,
Mr. Vice President of the Council,
Honourable Members of the Government, representatives of Parliament and other Institutions,
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always a pleasure for me to speak at the Conference of Italian Ambassadors.
Indeed, it is a favourable occasion to reassert the key role played by the Italian Republic at global level after leaving behind, since the post-war period, tragic events and anachronistic fanciful ambitions, having instead consolidated choices that have led us to become protagonists in the development of multilateral bodies and of an unprecedented reality such as the European Union.
Moreover, the Conference represents an opportunity to express my gratitude to the Ministry's staff for their daily commitment - developed in affirming the constitutional principles that inspire our Country's foreign policies - and to thank them for supporting me in my functions.
On the basis of the activity carried out by the Quirinale’s Diplomatic Affairs Division, of my visits abroad – by now over forty in this capacity of mine - and the other frequent occasions given by international meetings, I have the possibility to constantly appreciate the high level of professionalism that characterizes our diplomatic-consular network.
It is a valuable asset for the Country, characterized by a rigorous access to the career, which is essential to guarantee the necessary professional independence in carrying out diplomatic functions.
Such professionalism is particularly useful in the turbulent period we are facing in terms of international relations.
The lack of consolidated balances, hitherto considered "certain," causes instability, multiplies risks, even more so in the presence of choices that aim to prejudice the effectiveness of "instruments" used so far to manage crises.
It is not a matter of simple procedures or procedural issues.
The phenomena that we are observing are weakening and, at the same time, seem aimed to determine a gradual dimming of the values and principles which, after the defeat of the Nazi-Fascism, became the foundation of an international architecture based on relationships grounded in equal dignity.
Over the last few years, there have been numerous and significant anniversaries that have given us the opportunity to reflect on our history.
Last year we celebrated the centenary from the end of the First World War, and this year we have commemorated the seventy years from the beginning of the Second World War. These were both precious opportunities to be reminded that our current prosperity is the result of the foresight of those who were able to rebuild an organization based on international relations, whose core aim is the safeguard of peace as well as of people’s lives and rights, against any perverse logic of oppression of one nation over another.
In the wake of the Charter of the United Nations signed in June 1945, in San Francisco, and the establishment of the OEEC, in 1948, regional organizations were set up, such as the North Atlantic Treaty – which this year marks its seventieth anniversary - and, barely two years later, the European Coal and Steel Community, giving start to the path of progressive continental integration in which we are still engaged.
A path of rights and democracy whose core development is based on the election of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, by the peoples of the continent.
Over the past decades, our foreign policies have drawn inspiration from choices linked to freedom - which are at the basis of the Euro-Atlantic alliance - and solidarity, distinctive traits of the European development. The lack of such choices would imply a mere "sailing in convoy."
NATO and the EU have represented the solid and effective levers owing to which Italy has been able to actively contribute to the fundamental passages that have characterized the recent history of our Continent. As a consequence, it has been possible to project our national interests into a wider framework, bearing witness to the values of our culture and supporting our priorities, ranging from freedom and rights to peace, from the opening of markets to the enhancement of the contribution of our production system, from the Mediterranean to the stabilization of the Balkans, to the participation in major projects in the field of energy and infrastructure.
Based on this architecture, the Italian Republic has been able to contribute toward the establishment of a system made of international relations founded on multilateralism and on the respect of the principle of each Country’s equal status.
An approach that has supported the consolidation of our democratic structure and that has guaranteed, over time, peace, freedom, security, opportunities and a growing well-being for our citizens.
As mentioned, however, for some years now, we have been assisting to the spreading of phenomena that are progressively eroding an international structure that, only a few years ago, appeared to be acquired and capable of producing increasing positive results.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the crisis following the treasonable attack on the Twin Towers brought to the fore an increased demand for security, even more accentuated by the spread of terrorism at all latitudes. The subsequent financial and then economic crises made even more tangible a widespread sense of fear as to the individual and collective "tomorrow."
Consequently, an increased "request" for protection has developed especially in the domestic dimension of each State, as if this could provide solving responses, despite the international nature of each challenge: from the terrorist one, especially of Islamist origin, to those related to labour, environment and migration, all predictable but not adequately governed.
A feeling that in Europe, in particular, has exposed the still imperfect condition of the integration process. Indeed, while waiting for possible responses at community level and, at the same time, from many of the Member States, both the coordination of the necessary policies and the assignment of corresponding powers have been denied.
Such situation, combined with the dynamics characterizing the new communication technologies, has received fragmentary responses, sometimes contradictory and, anyway, not up to the breadth and depth of the events.
Nonetheless, an incontrovertible datum has been acquired.
If, before the crises of these years, the intrinsic reason of our "being together" in Europe was substantially based on the warning expressed by the Founding Fathers, "No more war, ever," today such commitment is full of even more complex meanings in the light of the situation ahead of us.
We have experienced different forms of conflicts in these seventy-four years since the end of the last World War. From the "Cold War" to the proxy wars in peripheral areas, to the East-West conflict, to the competition for technological supremacy - often combined with the control of rare resources - to trade wars.
Their common theme is always the supremacy of one State over others, of peoples over others.
In addition, we are currently observing the breaking into the scene of global operators, pushing to evade the rules of the individual national communities and unsubmissive to the introduction of international regulations.
Indeed, no one can imagine to maintain or raise the current levels of democracy, security and prosperity, and the related guarantees for citizens, if not within the scope of a supranational system capable of establishing common rules, being strongly interconnected from the financial, economic and communication viewpoint.
As far as we are concerned, the dimension where we can invest to obtain these indispensable results is the European Union, the only one that can guarantee our citizens the level of independence and freedom that we have experienced since the advent of the Republic.
The only one that can give due importance at international level to the Countries of the Union in their whole, to their values and economies, as indeed the international environment is increasingly characterized and conditioned by huge subjects.
In this sense, the theme chosen for this conference, "The Italian foreign policy towards the 2030 horizon: between continuity and change," is stimulating.
Continuity means that our national interest can be established by developing a common horizon with our partners that allows us to keep pace with the times, face challenges, compete with the old and new international actors, develop a system of international rules consistent with our values of freedom and equality.
Change lies in the ability to positively affect the ongoing processes, with perseverance and diligence, without rifts or adventurous leaps forward. This applies to delicate peace talks involving elective areas of our foreign policies or potential risks for our Country’s security. It applies to negotiations, first and foremost in the EU, with regard to the completion of the Eurozone’s architecture, and those in course concerning the in-depth analysis of the European Parliament’s participation in defining new institutional structures, as announced by the newly elected president of the Assembly, David Sassoli.
By broadening the horizon to a global context, our duty - as a Country within the European context - is to contribute toward regulating all scopes of action - increasingly numerous - where national regulations are progressively losing meaning.
I refer, for example, to climate, the protection of the environment or the fight against terrorism and hybrid threats, but also to completely different and to some extent new sectors, such as the taxation of large enterprises or the regulation of the so-called “web giants” in protecting citizens’ privacy.
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors,
These are themes to which the new common Institutions have to provide swift, ambitious and consistent responses.
I would like to seize this opportunity to express my congratulations to the new President of the Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, wishing her success in the challenging duty to which she has been called.
The European Union represents the first perimeter of action of our diplomacy, of our own international projection.
The Union is nothing else than ourselves.
The fact of expressing uneasiness, of stating its ineptitude to offer the desired results, risks to appear a self-destructive action, a declaration of failure in affecting its decisions.
Instead, the Union needs to be constructively spurred to respond with actions that fully reflect its ideal thrust and strength. Indeed, it is through the Union that we can better highlight our specificities, give our contribution with our ideas, express our worldview and that of international relations.
The Union is the place where we can share opinions and succeed in responding to challenges, in a necessary mutual respect.
Its patient development has allowed to make significant steps forward, with instruments, such as PESCO, that have consolidated its external projection. The desire to play a global role, to be protagonists in international relations, to be able to "sit at the table" of the great powers, means, for us Europeans, to strengthen the Union.
In this regard, I must highlight the growing trend - which I consider dangerously erroneous - toward intergovernmental mechanisms and practices, which are increasingly pervading the Union’s life.
It is a trend that risks changing the character of the historical integration process.
Over the decades - as the ambassadors well know - there have always been, from the very outset, two different views in this regard: the Community’s view and the intergovernmental one.
The former, more in line with the founders’ intentions and hopes, aims to assign the exercise of powers and competences to common bodies, bearers of an overall European view and not merely the sum of the choices of individual Member Countries, inevitably with a downward trend. The latter – that is the intergovernmental view, adopted especially by some of the Countries entered more recently - identifies in the Union a convenient framework where the Member States cooperate at economic and commercial level, firmly keeping the formulation of strategies and decisions in their distinct powers.
Currently, the intergovernmental view seems to be prevailing also in founding Countries and to be developing a position that can turn into a consolidated basic concept, a way of thinking. It is a situation that can risk creating a "glaciation" phase in the Union’s life.
According to my opinion, this would lead to weaken the European peoples’ possibility to express themselves effectively and to be protagonists in the life of the international community.
Only with the Union will we be able to turn the evidence into just as many opportunities.
This makes me think, for example, of the inclusion of the Western Balkans, the stabilization of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, of Africa’s development, a Continent destined more and more to become a privileged and indispensable partner for Europe.
The contribution toward stability and international peace offered by the EU over these decades needs to be increasingly enriched, with the valid and positive contribution to the transatlantic relationship.
The debate within the Atlantic Alliance cannot be reduced to the theme of asymmetries in financial contributions (think, for example, of the significant contribution of the Italian Armed Forces to peace missions), or focus almost exclusively on the issue relating to balanced relations in the re-emerged East-West dispute, neglecting other aspects.
There is a plan that needs to be constantly analyzed in depth.
It concerns the Alliance’s role in a view that connects the present to the future, with the aim to make the values of freedom, peace and security, on which the Washington Treaty is based, always topical.
The persistent centrality of the North Atlantic Treaty is evident, especially against the progressive abandonment of the instruments for the non-proliferation and control of weapons.
With regard to this issue, there can be no hesitation or ambiguity whatsoever. Indeed, this aspect needs to be clarified first and foremost by the main actors.
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors,
International relationships are characterized by a growing climate of competition in this era of multipolarism and of breaking up of strategic scopes of action.
All the more, therefore, it is necessary to reassert the value of an effective multilateralism.
In 1944, in Bretton Woods, the construction of a new world passed through the establishment of new rules for financial and commercial relations.
At the basis of that effort there was an awareness expressed by the then US Secretary of the Treasury, Morgenthau: " We have come to recognise that the wisest and most effective way to protect our national interest is through international cooperation... through the united effort for the attainment of common goals. ”
It is difficult to find more valid words, even today.
The tendency to make international issues exclusively bilateral is in contrast to such approach and represents a step backwards in history.
The return to mercantilist logics, to “zero-sum” games, not only takes the system of international relations a step back in time, but it also draws them dangerously close to almost “existential” friction lines, with easily predictable negative consequences, and scenarios that we all declare to want to avoid.
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors,
our diplomacy must not fail to make its voice heard in all international contexts, both bilateral and multilateral, appealing to reasoning, balance, wisdom and the ability to find shared and sustainable solutions, no matter how difficult.
Our national interest rests on the maintenance of peace, on the mutual respect of human rights, on open and safe trade, on a constant economic and social growth that tends toward the progressive reduction of inequalities between Countries and within single communities. These are goals that we can achieve only through a capillary action in which we are active and diligent protagonists, alongside our European partners and in the transatlantic bond.
Therefore, it is a matter of being able to "read" the events in a broad perspective, capable of anticipating scenarios, of identifying common interests, of weaving alliances, of foreseeing situations that can cause "falls," without improvising or expressing approximate evaluations.
The globalized world is characterized by complex networks and relationships.
There was an era when embassies opened roads for trade, brought cultures into contact, aspired to act as intermediaries in the establishment of new friendships.
That era was followed by others, in which embassies appeared as hostile outposts in foreign territories, waiting sometimes to deliver declarations of war, usually during the night.
The ambition of the Italian Republic must be to represent a model of values and an example of success for the international community.
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, we know that we can fully rely on your work.