(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is always an honor to address the distinguished audience of the Aspen Institute.
This is no ordinary time for our countries.
In the last two years the economic crisis has hit our countries very hard indeed. The US markets suffered a huge shock, devastating the expectations of millions of families around the world. In Europe the Greek debt crisis and its repercussions have put the credibility of the Economic and Monetary Union at risk. Overall, the slump of 2008-09 has threatened the much-vaunted liberal policies linked with globalisation.
The economic downturn came at the end of a very difficult decade that started with the September 11th terroristic attacks. A period in which we have faced a new generation of threats and growing forms of global instability: failed states, low-intensity conflicts, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, illegal migration, piracy…. So, it is really appropriate the title for tomorrow’s debate: Western democracies under pressure.
Under this pressure, many political assumptions have collapsed and the euphoric mood of the 90s has given way to a realistic reconsideration of our action and targets. Nonetheless, the transatlantic dialogue is one of the few pillars that has maintained its solidity and has not been undermined by the turbulent events of the last decade. How? Since the principles that its members have in common are simple and deeply rooted, it has preserved its central role as a community of values.
They stem from our humanistic heritage that affirms the human being as the measure of all things. These shared values are the basic certainty on which we have built the transatlantic community. And the Alliance has endured because of the power of its founding principles. Therefore, as far as these values are concerned, we are absolutely steadfast in not accepting any compromise: they are the fundamental element of our unity.
Since NATO’s birth and in the decades after the inception of the transatlantic community, the Western democracies have faced difficult challenges to their values. In the post-Cold War order, conflicts continue to spring from contrasting approaches to the same fundamental values, such as democracy, respect for life and freedom. Confrontation is no longer between NATO and Russia, which on the contrary has become a consolidated partner, but between our inclusive community and some groups that present asymmetric threats and dangers by pursuing destructive strategies in the name of extremism and fundamentalism.
There is another fundamental principle that unites the transatlantic community. As confirmed by the findings of the “Transatlantic trends”, the annual survey of American and European public opinion conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Italian “Compagnia di San Paolo”, overwhelming majorities of Americans (90%) and Europeans (72%) believe that people are better off in a free-market economy.
In this regard, the coordinated transatlantic reaction to the economic crisis gave us cause for satisfaction, by contributing to stabilising the world markets. Although there was too much hesitation in the face of unexpected dangers, we were able together to pull the global economy back from the brink of a depression. In the same line go our firm opposition to the protectionist measures adopted by some trade partners in the aftermath of the crisis and our action in favour of an agreement on the Doha round.
This sharing of beliefs and values has allowed the transatlantic community to play a stabilizing role in world affairs. The strength of these principles has acted as a “magnet”. We have attracted the Eastern Europe’s former communist countries, transforming their political systems and integrating them economically and militarily. And there is still a long queue in front of our doors, which have to remain open to those countries which share our values and are ready to take their responsibilities.
We ourselves have reaped the great benefits of the enlargement of both the EU and NATO since it has brought peace, security and economic prosperity to the European continent. As a late example, I would like to recall that thanks to the prospects of Serbia’s inclusion into the transatlantic community, we were able to defuse the crisis on the UN’s resolution about the status of Kosovo. And I hope that we will soon persuade Pristina and Belgrade to start negotiating.
In this context, Italy has been a key player. We have supported this inclusive approach. The aim is to provide increased stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area, without recreating dividing lines. We have set a clear example for the mainstream, by highlighting what is a key element of any flourishing relationship with our partners: namely, mutual trust. This implies, for example in the field of energy security, avoiding barriers, opening new markets and promoting productive cooperation with our suppliers. I have defined this strategy, “idealistic pragmatism,” since our ultimate goal is to spread peace, freedom and prosperity: an ambition that has led us to positively contaminate our external partners with the beneficial viruses of free trade, partnership and interdependence.
Within the transatlantic community, we have been consistently asking for more efforts to lay out a long-term vision for Russia’s partnership with NATO and sustain Turkey’s democratic and liberal reforms on the path to EU accession. In an interconnected world and in parallel with the extension of the Alliance’s scope of operational area we contributed as well to lay the foundations of the institutional framework on which an Afghan State can function and develop, avert the unstable situation in Somalia and provide Pakistan with humanitarian assistance (and market access).
[The results are encouraging, but much still remains to be done. Starting from the Middle East. The intense and wholeheartedly engagement of President Obama in the region and the rediscovered harmony with regard to the Peace Process between the United States and Europe - which finally ceased to act as a sponsor of the Israelis and the Palestinians, respectively – mostly contributed to resume the direct talks. It demonstrated that you can amicably and clearly talk to both sides. And also that whoever thinks that in the Middle East you have to pursue “either-or” policies does not have a good knowledge of the area and its peoples].
On the other hand, while not believing in the direct linkage between the Iranian nuclear issue and the peace in the Middle East, according to which solving the former issue will automatically settle the latter, I believe that the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would eliminate one of the most important pretexts used by the Iranian regime. For this reason, we actively sustain the all-out effort of the American Administration in the Peace Process, while we continue to express our desire to open a channel of dialogue with Tehran. At the same time, we have encouraged the European decision to adopt sanctions aimed at bringing Iran back to the negotiating table for talks that are meant to allay the concerns of the international community about its nuclear programme.
Allow me to conclude with a final consideration. I believe that the future of the transatlantic community will depend on how it adjusts to the emerging reality of the European Union as a genuine security actor. It is not only an imperative deriving from the Lisbon Treaty but also, and above all, an expectation shared by both the Americans and the Europeans. As a matter of fact, according to the mentioned survey, the overwhelming majority of Europeans (78%) and Americans (72%) find it desirable that the EU exert strong leadership in world affairs.
However, if the EU wants to realize its vocation as a political leader, it has to significantly contribute to the world stability as an active security provider and not only as a security consumer. Especially, since the Lisbon Treaty established a common defence framework between NATO and the EU, with the latter contributing to the security of the Alliance through its Common Security and Defence Policies. In other words, the sheer weight of our common challenges, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, should induce Europe to take on the burden of its responsibilities. At the same time, the European civilian assets and NATO’s military ones could be applied in a more coordinated approach. The training programmes that Italy is implementing in Afghanistan and in Iraq represent vivid examples of a well-assorted marriage of “hard” and “soft” security. In this context, we attach great importance to the ideas and proposals put forward by the new Strategic Concept which is due to be approved in November at the NATO Lisbon Summit.In this same spirit, I strongly welcome and commend today’s brilliant initiative of public diplomacy aimed at fostering ever greater understanding among the members of the euro-Atlantic community. The great work of renowned networks and bodies, such as the Aspen Institute, has been really valuable since the transatlantic dialogue is not the sole preserve of political leaders and diplomats. Looking back on all we have achieved together over the past 65 years, it is remarkable how much we have accomplished. I am convinced that also in the coming years we will deliver for our citizens’ security and prosperity if we continue to promote and defend the fundamental values shared by the two sides of the Atlantic.