I address to all a very cordial greeting, to the ISPI President, to the Minister, to the President of the Region, to the Mayor, to Senator Monti, to all Authorities present here and to the illustrious protagonists of the Round Table that we will shortly listen to with interest.
Thanks for having me here and for allowing me to contribute to the reflection which is particularly addressed to young people, whom I cordially greet.
The ISPI strongly contributes to maintaining the reflection in our Country open and free of constraints - and this is a precious piece of work not only for Italy, but also for our continent and for the whole world.
This network of reflection centres is really essential to the international community.
Being here, at the 85th anniversary of the Institute, is for me a very pleasant occasion to listen to such important personalities on a central issue of international life.
The issue of multilateralism has been part of debates and acts of over the first two decades of this century, and not only in the discussions between academics and researchers, but also, and above all, in the relations between States. This happens in a context where globalization establishes itself as a difficult phenomenon to manage, and is driven by digitalization, that accelerates, in every field of society and of human knowledge, the sharing of processes, news, ideas, behaviours.
Addressing this topic inevitably entails starting from a historical perspective.
The world of international relations in the second post-war period has been largely and positively influenced by the decision of the United States of America to embed its political, economic and military power in a multilateral system of international relations.
The most visible result of this is the decision to set up the United Nations, thus overcoming the obstacles that had characterised the experience of the League of Nations after the first world war.
Additionally, an integrated set of institutions came into being in the field of international financial architecture at the Bretton Woods Conference, with the creation of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, all of which laid the foundations for the setting up of the World Trade Organisation.
This was a boost spurred on by a mature and verified underlying belief.
It was thus acknowledged that the most effective way to achieve one’s national interest, to regain world peace, to achieve economic and social growth and technological progressinevitably involved effective cooperation between States.
We are also aware of the extent to which this approach has also been crucial for the European continent. We are also aware of the extent to which it simplified the work of the founding fathers of the Union, who were committed to reconciliation, and smoothened out the path of integration that has guaranteed – and continues to guarantee – the longest period of peace and prosperity that Europe has ever experienced.
A system, the multilateral one, that in these almost 75 years, has never ceased to foster the flourishing of numerous, complex and articulated further opportunities for cooperation, as the United Nations system has done likewise in parallel.
We could mention the G7 and the G20, and African, Asian and South American regional organizations - whose ultimate goal is exactly to improve cooperation on major cross-cutting topics.
It is known that, in their history, all these "intermediate bodies" have gone throughfailures: in Europe, we remember the attempted establishment of a European Defence Community. But they all obeyed – and still majorly obey - toa principle, like concentric circles: cooperation reduces conflict, thus increasing the possibilities of composing of national interests.
This is no longer a “zero sum” game", according to one can only win if someone else loses .
The international community has greatly benefited from it in its entirety, in terms rights recognition, social progress and growth.
Multilateralism has strengthened citizens’ prerogatives, which, having been previously expressed and recognized by the individual sovereignty of the States, were subsequently instilled into the protection offered at international level. An instance of this is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On the economic field, if we wanted to measure the results, we would notice that such "prevailing multilateralism", from 1950 to date, has increased the average yearly per capita income of the world population by four times. It is major success if we consider that the latter, in the same period, has almost tripled.
This becomes even more significant if we consider that the percentage of the population living on less than two dollars a day has gone down from 75% to 10% over the same period.
This means that we are freer and safer within more cohesive societies, and that we see a remarkable mutualisation of the principles which are the pillars of the life of our communities.
These flattering results, however, have not prevented this choice from being questioned or progressively tarnished, since the end of the second millennium.
In this respect, it is not to refer, albeit briefly, to fundamental questions that must be remembered, even if they may appear obvious, to respond to a necessity which emerges periodically.
What are the aims of international law?
Above all, achieving peace and justice.
These are deeply touched upon in the Italian Constitution, in articles 10 and 11 which guide our Republic’s action.
Ideally, international agreements must be open to all states that recognize its aims as theirs.
What leads to an international agreement?
Introducing of law in international relations while setting aside the critierion according to which force should prevail.
The ambition to subject international politics to law is nothing more than the transposition, at a higher level, of the role of the State in the life of a community: it means to be a bulwark against the "bellum omnium contra omnes".
Just as equality, solidarity and respect must prevail in the internal relationships within a community, so must these criteria be applied to international affairs. Peace and justice therefore become the duties of States within international relations.
The State in its action, within its own borders, is bound by principles which safeguard and enforce citizens’ rights.
Why should the State be disconnected from the very same principles in the exercise of foreign policy?
According to Kant, the ultimate aim of legal doctrine equals that even States are to abandon their warlike nature
Yet, the right to wage war, to occupy the territories of others, and the use of force as a rule of international action have long been considered ways to express one’s principle of sovereignty abroad. Their lawfulness was later contradicted only by the Kellogg-Briand Pact (Paris, 1928), which is entitled "Treaty for renunciation of war".
In particular, its promoter was the US Secretary of State, Frank Kellogg who, in the face of a proposal by the French minister for foreign affairs, Aristide Briand, for a bilateral non-aggression pact, re-launched a general multilateral agreement with the same target. Sixty-Three States signed the Treaty: among them, alongside the US and France, there were Germany, Italy, Japan.
It was a clear failure.
It is less known that the Treaty of Paris was considered as the legal basis for the exercise of jurisdiction by the Nuremberg Court: it was assessed that Germany, as a signatory of the Pact, was guilty of an international crime.
I believe that the core of this issue is all here, in the transition of foreign power from a non-legal state to acivilized, lawful state.
Multilateralism is the natural consequence of this transition and of the extension of the principles that regulate the life of national communities to the relationship between the States
We obviously cannot ignore how some basic conditions have changed, and multilateralism must take this into account.
After all, this is a phenomenon that has repeatedly occurred as a result of the changes that, after the Second World War, characterized international affairs: starting from the decolonization process, later with the Helsinki Treaty, with the crisis of the international Soviet system, up until today.
From time to time one might wonder — as occurs in the United States of America, for instance – the quality of fields and systems in which the application of the "one state one vote" requirement can lead to the unpleasant feeling of being subjected to decisions made by others. Positions of a revisionist nature thus grow in strength with respect to those practiced at the origin of the creation of the architecture of international organizations, starting with the UN.
Among founders, there is therefore a tendency towards changeand adaptation, which is the result of changing conditions in the international sphere, can come right from the founders.
It is clear, on the contrary, that withdrawing from a role in multilateral processes matters and even inevitably so, especially if the answer to the question of whether global "governance" of global processes is needed is affirmative; and no other state of affairs is possible.
Moreover, what "tool" would be the right one to use to organize international relations differently, respecting criteria of non-interference, avoiding impositions, refusing to resort to force, cooperation on the basis of equality?
It is not a question of singing the praises of multilateralism – having now gone into historic reasons and the positive elements inherent to it – but rather of reflecting on the tools and methodologies with which the international community intends to address the future of humanity.
Replacing policies based on cooperation with ones based on competition certainly would not help.
Competition between states gave way, after 1945, to the competition between systems, which ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall just thirty years ago! Now do we see a resurgence in the temptation to return to a situation of states competing among themselves like a century ago?
Are we to pursue multilateralism on security issues while applying bilateralism to free trade treaties? When economic wars arise, we should focus on the noun ‘war’ rather than the adjective ‘economic’.
We need to exercise great and joint responsibility.
Can the "common good" of the citizens of a State be contrasted with the "common good" of the citizens of another State? Is there a "good" which is common to all humanity?
The answer to these questions is well known and it is also a consequence of multilateralism.
Whenever we are faced with crises that appear unmanageable, we immediately call for collective action.
The oil crises in the 1970s and 1980s led to the creation of the G6 and to the Rambouillet meetings (and, also to the approval by the General Assembly of the United Nations of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States). In that situation the United States, with Kissinger, invoked the need to move away from individual states managing an issue to managing issues in a joint manner
In more recent times, international terrorism incidents have called for interventions by the United Nations, NATO, and sometimes one-off coalitions of the willing.
The 1975 Helsinki Conference was a major post-war international stabilization exercise, which gave rise to the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which, despite being so very valuable, has proven itself to be rarely effective in the decades following its creation.
Ultimately, while the need for global governance is increasing, the means to achieve it have doubt cast over them.
Multilateral institutions inevitably reflect, on the other hand, the actual balance at that moment in time and the prevalence of dominant orientations and interests, sometimes through elections.
So, the question arises once more: are we debating the multilateral solution or, rather, the weakness of the institutions that embody the international order?
Significant perplexities arise from the fact that, while globalization has, on the one hand, significantly improved living standards in a large part of the globe, on the other hand it has caused tensions and inequalities pronounced in countries with mature economies: the inadequacy of action led by multilateral economic-financial institutions in the management of these consequences, has generated a widespread disaffection of the populations affected by these same bodies, including the European Union.
In terms of social tensions, it is worth mentioning once again that the salaries have fallen as a share of the economy: in developed countries of the OECD, they were 68% of GDP in the mid-1960s and fell to 58% thirty years later.
It is also worthy of note that while human capital represents 65% of global wealth, in low-income countries it stands at a mere 41%.
It is therefore clear that multilateralism is not guilty for the negative effects of globalization, but rather constitutes a remedy for it and helps in jointly achieving common rules and objectives for overcoming these negative effects.
The two spheres should not be confused.
The challenge is to move from a defensive approach to the decision to govern the phenomena that arise themselves.
Progress in communication technologies, social media, "asymmetric" threats, the growth of new geopolitical actors and global non-state actors, terrorism, the phenomena of radicalization present in societies, as well as the worrying acceleration in climate change, responsible for part of the migratory phenomena - all of these represent powerful drivers of change or potential instability and alarm to which even the world of relations between states must adapt.
Unfortunately, it is easy to see how, faced with these horizontal challenges, the return to the logic of "power" threatens to acquire a prevailing relevance with respect to the logic of dialogue.
This also happens in the area of conflict prevention measures, with a return to a past fraught with hazards, especially if we consider that among the first victims of this new scenario we must include some regimes - such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) or the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) - established to make the entire planet a safer place for everyone. These latter aspects are facts destined to bring back a backdrop of military competition and insecurity in the Old Continent.
What can we realistically do to restore conditions that re-establish strength to multilateralism as the main "engine" of international relations?
As far as we are concerned, it is not difficult to conclude that no European country can have such a deep effect on the international situation so as to permanently influence the course of it.
A more credible and concrete answer could instead come from the subject that the Europeans have created together: The Union.
Faced with the decomposition in progress, can the EU – in its evolutiontowards an ever-closer Union (we hope) – realistically provide the system of multilateralism with that additional "critical mass" capable of giving it new momentum? And, if so, what are the conditions for this to happen?
To the first question, one could simply answer that the Union has all the potential to revitalise multilateralism, because it lives by this method every day.
If it is able, therefore, to provide itself with greater cohesion, it would thus be a multilateral "power" capable of making its voice heard at the highest level, and this would be the result of a pluralist reflection, which finds its roots in those civil and political values that they best represent.
As for the second question, what does the Union need the most, in its articulated path towards growing integration, so as to be able to make such a "qualitative leap" that can attract the other great "actors" – primarily the United States, China and Russia, but not only these – to respecting the substance of the rules of multilateralism?
The many incomplete endeavours aimed at completing their architecture show that to a large extent European governments continue to believe that the choice of integration – although not always clearly defined – still represents the main path to follow.
The focus, however, often remains restricted to interventions that originate in times of need. Interventions that allowed for individual difficulties to be overcome but which later proved to be partial and unsuitable for strengthening the Union in all directions.
What we would need – and the new cycle that opens in Brussels represents, on this level, an opportunity to be seized – is a broader plan that allows us to tackle the "structural weaknesses" of the Union, so as to gradually mitigate their impact.
These weaknesses concern – in extreme synthesis – two areas: that of foreign policy and that of economic policy.
The institutional cycle that has just ended has seen the Union taking significant steps towards the a more defined common foreign and security policy.
With the approval of the "Global Strategy", pushed by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, a "first stone" was set in an attempt to translate a "common vision" into a "common action". An important step that needs to be immediately resumed, strengthened and deepened.
The dissipation of energies weakens everyone, and this to the backdrop of an increasingly complex situation, in which conflicts play out on multiple levels: military, cyber, intelligence, to which we may add the insidious universe of asymmetrical responses.
Furthermore, in terms of instruments, encouraging results have been achieved. As a matter of fact, positive changes have occurred such as the approval of PESCO and the European Defence Fund. These are projects that also need to root themselves more firmly within the EU dynamic.
We are therefore on a path of positive evolution.
A path that is not in contrast with the fact that the vast majority of EU countries belong to the Atlantic Alliance. On the contrary, pooling resources and tools increases available capacity. The perspective remains that of complementarity and evolution destined to make the Alliance stronger in serving common interests.
A more cohesive Europe therefore means strengthening the engagement on both sidesof the Atlantic with regards to the principles of freedom and democracy that underpin the Treaty.
The second area that the Union must strengthen is that of economic policy.
The level of wellbeing that the Union has guaranteed to its citizens – certainly higher to what the Member States would have been able to provide individually – is closely linked to the international cooperation system that took its first steps in Bretton Woods.
The possibility of free exchanges of goods and services, in very large quantities and without restrictions, has characterized the development of the European economy since World War II.
Europe is heavily dependent on the proper functioning of international markets, its export capacity and the presence of economies open to import.
As the main trade bloc in the world, the European Union must know how to pursue positive, balanced, mutually beneficial partnerships, with the awareness that a structure based exclusively on a general vocation of all countries to merely export goods and services would lead to the competition of all against all, in a succession of protectionism and trade wars.
Contributing to a different international equilibrium also ranges from support to demand, diffusing the tensions that are concentrated on trade relations, the consequences of which would be negative for all in terms of customs contrasts.
The Union must urgently be equipped with autonomous instruments of economic and fiscal policy and should not remain simply within an anti-cyclical function. It is my view that it is crucial that Europe keeps up with the great economic realities of today.
Without a substantial flow of investments in research, development and training, in the modernization of physical and IT infrastructures or to fight climate change, the Union, among other things, can never aspire to be part of the small club of great international actors; and would renounce contributing its values and vision on the world stage as a key player.
No European company appears today among the largest in the world and no big technology comes from the European continent.
A more solid (and more cohesive) Europe would become a more credible international partner.
It would affirm itself as an expert architect for the construction of a new multilateralism, bringing valuable experience: the successful application of institutional subsidiarity.
A partner who – by its very nature as a subject that gathers and enhances the richness of its various components – sees dialogue as the programmatic composition of interests and the main method not only to address the sizeable entanglements of international relations, but also to develop the future of humanity in coexistence and cooperation.
Mr. President of ISPI,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank the Institute for calling together this forum, which is so verytimely. I observe that the European and Atlantic choice – 70 years after the signature of the Atlantic Pact and 68 years after the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community – and the determined membership of the United Nations (in 2020 we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its foundation), continue to be fundamental for Italy, which, through them, has been able to fully develop the international projection of its interests and the recognition of its people's values.
In particular, the Italian Republic has found in the process of European integration the tool to have a say in the response to the challenges that have arisen in these sixty years.
Today, even more, Europe's voice in favour of the rights of the person and minorities, its commitment to peace and democracy, can make the difference in a world filled with temptations to return to conflict and to build new walls.
A Europe capable of being able to play this role is a guarantee that tensions and contrasts can be channelled in the direction of profitable solutions for all actors.
A guarantee of robust anchoring to multilateralism is the only alternative to a "zero sum" world.