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Terzi: “The Europe of the future cannot operate like a ‘Directoire’” (l’Unità)

From the Tymoshenko case to the French election, via the Middle East and Africa. The interview granted to l’Unità by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is broad in scope. With one unifying strand: the Europe of today and of the future.

The first “hot” dossier right now is the “Tymoshenko case”. Your German colleague has threatened to block Ukraine’s European Union association process if Kiev continues to treat the former prime minister with such an iron hand. What is Italy’s position?

“The very concept of partnership between the European Union and any country that is drawing closer to the EU in Eastern Europe, in the Balkans, is based on another, fundamental concept: that of reaching standards that are in line with Europe’s in respecting human rights and the fundamental freedoms, and implementing the rule of law. This is an area of vital importance in deciding on a partnership relationship.

I want to be even clearer. Respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms is not an area in which, while a country is integrating more closely with Europe, we can contemplate derogations. If anything, the opposite is true: the supervisory and assistance mechanisms must be made ever-more efficient. In European public opinion the conviction has taken hold that the Ukrainian authorities are being driven, in the Tymoshenko case, by a deliberate intention to attack a former prime minister and political leader of the country”.

Any response from Kiev?

“So far they haven’t sent out any signals. There’s been no concrete action to provide a positive response to the increasingly widespread concerns of governments and European public opinion over this worrying affair. In this context, in the name of the Italian Government, I have made it very clear that there can be no diversionary tactics, ‘discounts’ or looking the other way for reasons of expediency of any sort – as people sometimes think happens in the realpolitik of European diplomacy.

Italy’s intention is to keep up a strong and growing pressure on this case. Just as we would do with any other cases that might emerge in Ukraine or other parts of the world, where respect for the fundamental freedoms is concerned. Respect for human rights – which also means promoting religious freedom, protecting ethnic minorities, abolishing any form of torture, the utter unacceptability of intolerable practices against children, preventing the recruitment of child soldiers, and protecting women’s status – is not an optional. It must always be the key and fundamental point of our country’s international activity.

I repeat: there will be no ‘discounts’ for the Ukrainian Government on the ‘Tymoshenko case’. But I don’t think the authorities in Kiev have understood this message yet. It is up to us, as Italy and Europe, to get it through to them, including by taking action on the partnership process currently under way and on the European Football Championship”.

From Kiev to Paris. The analysts agree that the “Europe” question has been thrust into the French election campaign.

“I view the increased interest in European issues in the election debate and, generally speaking, in the political debate in the various EU countries, as being extremely positive. A debate that starts with the economic and financial crisis and the policies we need if we are to emerge from it. It’s also a good thing that Europe is the topic of an exchange of alternative ideas, proposals and visions that are able to involve civil society and public opinion, rather than remaining the preserve of the ‘professionals’.

This is a discussion that starts from the economy and extends to security governance and a common foreign policy in crucial regions like the Middle East, or to ‘hot’ dossiers like the Iranian nuclear question. ‘More Europe’ is not just to be hoped for, it is a factor that can no longer be pushed into a future that is already here. In the face of the crisis, there’s no single national way out. That’s just an illusion, and the sooner it’s abandoned the better it’ll be for all of us. The road to follow is the road of ever-more political and institutional, and not just monetary or market, integration. Of course, the ‘weight’ of Europe in national policies is bound to increase, as the French presidential campaign confirms”.

On the subject of the French vote. Seen from Rome, wouldn’t it be desirable to review the discussion on the “Merkozy” approach? The “pact of iron” between the German Chancellor and the current resident of the Élysée Palace?

“It seems to me that a conviction is gaining ground, at the European level, to the effect that the inter-governmental method needs, more and more, to give way to the Community method. This is a highly important factor, when we’re talking about restricted groups or a two-member ironclad pact. Nobody intends to question the usefulness of this preferential relationship between France and Germany, which is nothing new. But when we’re talking about building Europe, we need to approach the question at a different level: strengthening the European institutions.

Because it’s only through the Community method – I’m thinking of foreign and security policy, and more – that we can give the Union a substantial and influential role in a globalised world. The Europe of the future will not be the sum of the individual powers, it will not be a Europe that’s a prisoner to a mindset linked to old, post-colonial influence and relationships. The Europe of the future will speak with a cohesive, credible voice. A voice that will demonstrate its vast power of attraction at the global level. One challenging test bed is the Middle East peace process: the European Union needs to have a single agenda, speak with a common voice. And the same applies for Iran”.

An attraction that should also be exerted in continents like Africa, that have “emerged”, and which you’re about to visit. What’s the reason for your mission?

I’m delighted to be taking part in a conference promoted in Addis Ababa by the former prime minister, Romano Prodi, as a supporter and guiding spirit of the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation. The theme of the conference is the relationship between the European Union and the African Union. An exciting topic, because the African Union looks to the EU as a model, the culmination of a continent-wide integration process. My mission is also intended to mark the increasingly close partnerships between Italy and the countries – like Ethiopia and Mozambique, the ones I’ll be visiting on this occasion – of an extraordinary continent that’s developing in two crucial areas”.

What are they?

“Democracy and the economy. Two areas that are closely interlinked. Africa is a continent that is drawing closer to our concepts of ‘rule of law’. Africa must increasingly become Europe’s natural partner. And Italy intends to play a leading role in that respect, by giving very real content to this partnership strategy”.


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