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Not long from now our children and grandchildren may find themselves caught in the undertow of a rising tide of fundamentalism, unconventional military threats, uncontrolled migration flows or stiff economic competition. What will our defence be when they accuse us of not having given them the instruments and policies for preventing Europe from becoming a “spare continent”? We are currently engaged, first and foremost, in promoting approaches to growth that are indispensable to saving Europe today; in order to make these efforts more effective we need to underpin them with another equally convinced one of defining the objectives, structures and programmes that will allow a future Europe to function as a global actor on an equal par with the United States and China.

That is the question we need to answer – and I mean today, not tomorrow – aware that, as Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi wrote in Corriere, the consolidation of the euro zone has to happen by means of political-economic integration; and that in striving to construct a more politically integrated Europe we must bear in mind that the essential ingredient is an effective European foreign policy.

Just like a State, Europe is defined, recognised and respected in function of its ability to promote its interests through effective and responsible external actions. This is what Italy has been doing over the last eight months in negotiations in Brussels and with our main partners. And it is on this that a small group of European foreign ministers are actively engaged in giving concrete content to proposals for the “Europe of the future” and a “political Union”. Guido Westerwelle, Laurent Fabius, Josè Margallo and other colleagues share with me a belief in the urgent need for an integrated European foreign policy that unites the 27 Members on questions of defence, energy, migration and human values.

These are topics that touch the fundamental interests of all Europeans, and on which more intense political debate would be welcome. There should be parameters – on which Italy would have much to say – by which to measure the effectiveness of a European foreign policy: security, first and foremost, in all its various dimensions, particularly that of defence. The European Union is a producer of security. Over recent years we have launched 24 peacekeeping missions in the world, a contribution in terms of men, women, resources and experience that must not be ignored.

This must be the foundation for a true defence policy with a high degree of cooperation, from strategic planning to supply, and from training to technological development. This is what our allies are asking of us, by way of an increasingly complementary approach with NATO while avoiding costly and unsustainable duplications. This must be a process that extends to all countries wishing to take part, and no one should have to feel left out from the start.

But, if necessary, we may have to proceed in smaller groups, using the tools provided by the Lisbon Treaty, such as permanent structured cooperation. Then there is the “social” dimension, particularly the themes of development and migration. More than half of the development funding in the world comes from the European Union, which must also be aware of its unique role, and more capable of using it in the promotion of neighbourhood policies with the East and the Mediterranean, above all with a view to supporting the democratic transitions going on there. The resources earmarked for the countries of the southern Mediterranean, from Libya to Egypt and Tunisia itself, have to date not been on a par with the challenges posed, especially in implementing partnerships of mobility that we consider essential, not least in preventing and managing migration flows.

Energy security is another crucial aspect in economic and social development. Energy nourishes productive systems and, precisely for this reason, is both a political and an economic theme for Europe, and for Italy in particular. We are a country that is highly dependent on outside sources and, like the rest of Europe, must exploit the geopolitical advantage afforded by our location at a crucial energy flow crossroads. As our citizens need to be assured of a secure European energy framework over the short and medium term, we are working on drafting strategies for a common energy policy ahead of the completion of the European energy market by the end of 2014.

A safer world is also a world where rights are respected. The foreign policy of a credible Europe must hinge on the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights, starting with the defence of religious freedom against all forms of intolerance and violence. Last month, on Italy’s impetus, a major step was taken forward in Luxembourg with the approval of a new European strategy on human rights that includes freedom of religion as one of its priorities. Italian and European citizens are facing major sacrifices today in the name of the greater security and prosperity that a future Europe, capable of defending their interests, can offer. That is the purpose of a European foreign policy.

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