(fa fede solo il discorso effettivamente pronunciato)
Ministers, Vice Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are meeting in a period in which we can clearly distinguish three divergent trends making the Central European Initiative space, a much more complex geo-political space, compared to 1989.
First trend: the EU, made of 27/28 members, once Croatia is in, is going through its harderst financial and economic crisis since the introduction of the euro. In Italy’s view, more integration is needed in order to move towards a solution of this crisis, along with both a mix of fiscal discipline and new measures for growth. We will see in a couple of weeks whether the euro zone is bold enough to take these steps forward. Italy will play a leading role in that direction, being fully conscious that saving the “euro-zone” is in the European people’s best interest.
Second trend: some of the Western Balkans are coming closer or even entering the EU. Unexpectedly, indeed, the economic crisis has not stopped the enlargement process, also thanks to the efforts of countries like Italy, playing a vital interest in keeping the EU’s doors open. Since CEI’s last Ministerial Meeting, 12 months ago, many progresses have been achieved in the European track of several CEI member States. Croatia will join the EU in one year time; Montenegro should hopefully open its accession negotiations very soon; Serbia obtained the candidate status; Albania could achieve the same result by the end of 2012. As a matter of fact, if we combine the need for more integration within the euro zone and the enlargement of the EU space, the possile result is a two-tier Europe. This should not be a negative outcome, provided that the single market is strengthened, as the connecting glue.
The third trend regards the CEI’s outer circle, comprising countries like Ukraine and Belarus. The climate between the EU and belarus is full of clouds, as we all know. Yet we hope minsk will be able to make further concrete steps so as to make possible improvements in bilateral relations. Ukraine, which I thank for the efficient presidency of the CEI, has made important steps towards an Association and Free Trade agreement with the European Union, and yet the actual signining of this agreement requires further reforms in the field of rule of law and the judicial sector, as Ukraine itself recognized in the joint declaration with the EU of December 2011. Last May, the EU Foreign Affairs Council has been called to discuss the situation in Ukraine. We hope that it will be possible to sign the Agreement as soon as all the relevant conditions are met, paving the way for economic integration and political association.
The interaction of these trends is extremely important for the reunifiction of the European continent. To this end – and given the values CEI has been so far encompassing – we should confirm the usefulness of this regional forum but also reassess its missiom as an institution we set up 25 years ago. It would be a waste of time and energy if we just let old fora survive as they are – for the sake of it. On the opposite, we must reform and update the regional fora we have, to the best of their potential.
I have a few developments in mind. First, from an institutional point of view, the agreement in the making between CEI and the EU becomes even more important (by the way, the EU Commission gave to the CEI’s executive secretariat, as a model of regional cooperation, the mandate to strengthen the RCC secretariat). Second, we must strengthen concrete regional projects in key sectors as infrastructures, energy and transports. Italy is the major contributor to the EBRD trust fund for CEI, and we are very proud to notice that this kind of investments have been generating growth in the beneficiary Countries. The trust fund contributed to important projects like the Kiev metro line, corridor n. 5, the international airport in Sarajevo, the restructuring of Serbian railways.
Finally, equally important is the macro-regional dimension. If we just remain at the level of inter-state cooperation, the CEI risks to be redundant: bilateral agreements already exist between the EU and many CEI members. On the opposite, if we shift to macro-regional cooperation, trying to connect the Danubian strategy with the development of the Adriatic and Ionic strategy, we will provide a very useful net of interaction. As you know, last year, on 24th June 2011, the European Council “invited the Member States to continue working, in cooperation with the Commission, on possible future macro-regional strategies, in particular in the Adriatic and Ionian Region”. Our aim is to achieve by 2012 the European Council’s mandate to the Commission to define the “Strategy”, in view of its final endorsement in 2014. We should clearly state, today, that we further commit to a more effective regional cooperation in order to stand united and to achieve common goals, starting from the promotion of European values like democracy, freedom and human rights in our Countries. We are sure that “Macro-regions” can positively contribute to the enlargement process and promote common policies among Member Countries. In this framework, taking into account the “Strategy for the Danube Macro-Region”, we are convinced that CEI can be a “Bridge between Macroregions”. We can promote synergies and avoid duplications between different regional cooperation initiatives, and I am confident that the Hungarian Presidency of CEI in 2013 will effectively focus on this.
In a few words, the European experience teaches us that European institutions live and exist as long as they are able to evolve. The EU has been evolving also by passing through several crises. This dramatic way, if you wish, to grow, is not the only possible one, and yet evolution is needed. We are living in a new century, we are confronted with new challenges, the CEI is an asset we have: let’ all together improve its performance.