Having vision – that is the challenge all leaders face when they step outside their national confines to develop foreign policy.
A great European country such as ours is certainly capable of cultivating fruitful international relations. Nevertheless, foreign policy is more than that, and it is therefore necessary to develop and maintain a big picture of events in the world and Italy’s role in them. The more or less limited timeframes of governments and financial constraints are, from this point of view, relatively secondary. Priorities must be set, but those can only correspond with our basic interests if they are defined without losing sight of the overall scenario on which we find ourselves operating. In other words, each State necessarily drafts foreign policy with the means at its disposal but, in order to give meaning and weight to the actions it undertakes, its ambitions and vocation must be global.
As it does at domestic level, the economic/financial crisis offers an opportunity to stimulate and consolidate virtuous conduct, and could lead toward a more widely shared and realistic vision of our international role: over the years we have paid the price of its absence, in terms of our country’s status and in the effectiveness of our efforts, and the presiding government would render a great service to those that will follow if leaves the legacy of such a methodology.
Where to begin? First of all, with the sceptical supposition that Italy has no particular importance in international relations. Countries count today essentially for the initiatives they undertake and for the positions they assume.
The more credible and reliable these latter are the greater a country’s consideration and, along with that, the greater its ease in ensuring security and promoting competitiveness. In other words, foreign policy must necessarily be counted among reliability factors and, therefore, as one of the drivers behind the growth of States, and foreign ministries, in some ways, among economic ones.
In a context such as this, and on the basis of Premier Monti and Minister Terzi’s planning statements, what can the priority components of Italy’s global agenda be?
The European Union, first and foremost, obviously, but aware that we will have no credibility in Europe until we are able to participate in it as a solid “country system”, capable of clearly identifying and defending our national interests effectively. In order to assert itself, Europe needs strong national States capable of pooling increasing portions of their national sovereignty without having to fear that every revision of existing mechanisms will mean that some must lose in order that only a few may reap the benefits. And the Union must be equally cohesive to include the Balkans, which we must pledge to encourage.
The trans-Atlantic context, where relations with the United States are solid and multi-faceted, also shows how strategic the principle of allied solidarity has become. We can no longer do without it, without paying an intolerable price in terms of credibility. And it is here that our added international value will continue to come into play, with our continuing participation in peace missions, our presence in crisis theatres, and our reliable contribution to efforts aimed at convincing Iran to participate in serious nuclear talks.
In the Mediterranean, therefore, where our active presence is dictated by geographic location, tradition and recent developments, we should be able to add our ability to offer the countries of the region a more complete framework that strengthens their links with Europe, and unites reinforcement of mutual trust with the development of intra-regional collaboration and the promotion of the human dimension and contact between civil societies. All this without failing to make our balanced voice heard in the Middle East and without neglecting to promote our “country system” to the Gulf Countries, in turn new centres of rising global influence.
A politics of values aimed, moreover, at giving lofty meaning and content to Italy’s standing in the world, fuelling our battles against the death penalty and on behalf of human and minority rights, female emancipation, the protection of children, and freedom of the press, opinion and worship.
Finally, our relationship with the world’s major (too simplistic to call them merely emerging) nations. We can wait no longer to work with them – and that includes the principal African nations – to outline true global agendas, which must be increasingly extended and articulated to include, along with bilateral relations, encounter on the main international principles and on the economic governance of the phenomena associated with globalisation, making the most of our common membership in the G8 and G20. Strengthening our relations with Brazil, in this regard, is an obvious priority.
In conclusion, one doesn’t necessarily have to have massive resources and size in order to think big and to insert one’s initiatives – if they designed with care and funded adequately – into a bigger picture that gives them cohesion and credibility.
Redesigning our instruments with this in mind – from our irreplaceable diplomatic network to the internationalisation of our “country system”, the penetration of new markets, attraction of investments, development cooperation, and promotion of energy security – is an ambitious enterprise, but within our reach. Success is, first of all, a matter of culture and mentality: of shared vision, in fact.