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Italy’s commitment to Europe – 2014 Presidency: political union and federalism

With one year to go until our EU Presidency in the second half of 2014, Italy has renewed its commitment to achieving political union in the framework of a “United States of Europe”. Because there is no alternative to a strong “EU project” if the Union wants to go on playing a leading role on the international stage.

Political union: a goal for the Italian Presidency

Political union will be the principal goal of the Italian Presidency of the European Union, which begins one year from now on 1 July 2014. A year that could be “decisive”, as Prime Minister Enrico Letta underscored on 11 July at the celebrations for the French national day at Palazzo Farnese, commenting on President François Hollande’s proposal to achieve political union within two years. A vital project, underscored Letta, because “the crisis of the last 5 years should convince us that without the EU there will be yet more crises”.

“Light” federalism

The institutional model is federalism: the only model, in Foreign Minister Emma Bonino’s view, “that can hold 500 million people together in democracy and freedom”.The Minister observed that the European engine has got “stuck”, and we need to take an important and bold step towards greater integration, because there is no alternative. Europe has the possibility of continuing to be a key actor in the new, multi-polar scenario, because it has assets in advanced sectors such as culture, welfare, literacy and technology. But it needs to grow stronger, with a federalist outlook.

Italy can once again be a key player

Minister Bonino’s vision is of a “light federation” which, while absorbing no more than 5% of European GDP, could fund essential government functions such as foreign and security policy, scientific research, and major infrastructure networks. This is “a new vision that would fully involve citizens and governments, with whom a new period of recovery and growth could come into being, while fostering the democratic legitimacy of the European project and the Union’s role as a global actor”. For Italy, during the six-month Presidency, the opportunity could arise “to once again play a full and leading role in the European integration process”.

Elections in 2014 will be a watershed

A “clearly federal” government like the Italian one is vital, according to Deputy Minister Lapo Pistelli, at a time when “the stakes too are clear. The European elections in 2014 will decide whether the European project is undermined and placed in doubt by a Parliament dominated by euro-sceptics, or whether the federalists – who are seeking ‘more’ Europe – succeed in placing the issue firmly at the centre of the debate”.

More robust budgetary resources against the crisis

For a stronger Europe, the budgetary resources must be sufficient. The Minister for European Affairs, Enzo Moavero, acknowledged that the budget for 2014-20 represented a “downsizing” agreement,

with a cut of 73 billion euros with respect to the previous one. Italy, he pointed out, did not agree with this reduction, in the conviction that during a period of crisis the EU should adopt anti-recession policies. But our country held out for a budget review in 2016, which could result in increased funding once the crisis is over.

Enlargement: Turkey and the Balkans

The enlargement dossier is also decisive. For the Balkans and Turkey, Italy is campaigning for European integration, a process that has brought numerous successes. Successes such as Croatia’s accession on 1 July, a start-date for Serbia’s accession negotiations and Kosovo’s association agreement. Efforts are also under way to ensure that the talks with Turkey keep going because, as Deputy Minister Marta Dassù commented, Ankara’s exclusion from the EU would be a “strategic loss” on the geopolitical and economic fronts.

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