Lecture by the
Italian Deputy-Prime Minister
and Minister of Foreign Affairs,
H.E. Massimo D’Alema
“ Italy, Europe and India: making the multilateral system stronger”
Indian Council for World Affairs
Thank you for inviting me to the Indian Council for World Affairs: It is for me a great pleasure and honour to share some thoughts with you on Italy’s foreign policy and the future of India-Europe relations.
I would like to touch upon the two subjects in this order, first trying to lay out the basic tenets of Italy’s foreign policy and then explaining why I believe it essential to further develop relations between India and Europe.
At times, I almost get the impression that, from the Indian viewpoint, Europe is just an economic actor. This is not actually so, and I shall offer my thoughts on how forging closer links between India and Europe is in fact a key precondition to an effective multilateral governance.
Italy’s approach to the world is obviously a function of our values, history and geography.
1. Our values are those enshrined in Italy’s 1947 Constitution: peace and democracy as objectives to which our country contributes internationally through its participation in multilateral institutions and in alliances. Such an approach is based on the idea that national sovereignty has certain limitations: a principle that, I believe, has been one of the founding elements of the process of European integration and has become very fitting in today’s world. It is well known that there are countries with a more sovereignty-centric vision – and I understand your country shares this strong attachment to national sovereignty. In my view, however, a functioning mechanism of international governance requires - together with common rules - that nation States be ready to accept self-imposed restraints to their national sovereignty. It is in fact becoming evident that the only way to exercise sovereignty in an effective manner is to share it as a part of a common endeavour.
Let us take the example of a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. We all know that the commitment that the European Union has recently undertaken is insufficient as long as it does not stimulate a global agreement to which the United States, China, Brazil and India must all be parties. But this means that everybody will have to accept limitations – though voluntary limitations – to carbon-oxide emission levels, in exchange for a regime that benefits all.
Again speaking of values, democracy means, in Italy’s foreign policy, a special attention to human rights, beyond strictly national interests. The diplomatic initiative that Italy and the European Union are promoting at the UN for a moratorium on the execution of death penalty is an example of an ethical battle, on which we hope to involve the largest possible number of countries. Similarly, for this very reason, we do not remain indifferent to systematic and violent repression of fundamental human rights as if they were only a matter of domestic politics. The weight of the values we cherish naturally brings us close to our fellow democracies: thus, it should also bring together Italy and the largest democracy in Asia.
2. Our history is the story of a country which has firmly believed, since 1945, in the priority of both European integration and Transatlantic Partnership. These two pillars of our foreign policy are normally compatible, and, all along the last 50 years they have reinforced each other. But this has not been the case, for instance, in 2003, when the American Administration decided for military intervention in Iraq; Europe split thus losing influence; and both transatlantic relations and European Union underwent a period of tensions and stress.
We are now in a clearly improved context. The American Administration, under pressure by its public opinion, is giving more credit to multilateral institutions; Europe is ready to contribute to the management of international crises, with an attitude that I would describe as “Euro-Atlantic”.
And in the West, there is a growing awareness that global governance can only be effective if other emerging actors are also involved in its management.
Yet, the management of global governance has many aspects. And in this respect, it is not a mystery that for instance, on the question of the reform of the UN Security Council our views are different. But there are other significant areas of convergence.
Let me take the example of the G8. We need to adapt the G8 formula to a new and clearly emerging reality. I see the G8 as a very important framework where issues and opportunities can be discussed and decided effectively at the highest level.
Bridging differences, facing global challenges, contributing to economic and social development, helping in the solution of regional crisis, all these are the “core missions” of the G8. To do so, we believe that the “outreach”, initiated by an Italian Presidency, has reasonably succeeded over the last few years. Now it is time to be more creative. An expansion of the G8 itself should be seriously considered, in order to improve the cross regional effectiveness of the G8 “core missions”. And in my opinion new important members from Asia, like India, from Africa and the Arab world, from North and South America, should be considered. With this platform in mind, we are preparing for the 2009 G8 Presidency.
Clearly, participation in these fora also implies increased responsibilities. It was the greatest of all Indian leaders, the Mahatma Gandhi, who reminded us that “the Gange of rights flows from the Himalaya of duties”: in other words, in this complex and interdependent world, opportunities and responsibilities are tightly linked to each other.
3. Lastly, Italy’s geography is that of a country that straddles Central Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, with a long Adriatic coast to the East, projected toward the Balkan region. It is a geographically exposed position, as evidenced by migratory flows. And it is also the reason for the special attention Italy pays to Mediterranean issues including the Middle East as a whole, which we see as a single “arc of crisis”. The main feature of Italy’s policies toward this arc of crisis is the belief that the EU’s power of attraction can be a great factor of pacification. We are thus in favour of enlargement of the EU to Turkey, and of enlargement of both the EU and NATO to the Balkans once the Kosovo crisis is solved. We also support a serious strengthening of the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue following a decade in which the centre of gravity of Europe has been shifting Eastward. Italy has taken on, coherently, an array of direct responsibilities: particularly in Lebanon with the deployment of UNIFIL II. It is important that in this mission India and Italy – but I would rather say India and Europe - are working together, side by side. We are both convinced that the future of the Middle East is decisive not only for regional security but also for the stability of the international system as a whole.
This, in a nutshell, is how values, history and geography shape Italy’s foreign policy. But the reality is that, in this post-2001 world – dominated by truly global challenges – no country can view history or geography as a refuge. A regional focus is always important – to make foreign policies effective. But it does not prevent the need to develop a global projection. Here is why, then, the still incomplete relation between Europe and India (despite the strategic partnership agreed in 2004) becomes decisive.
Let me now discuss five points to turn a developing relation into a strong one, or a potential partnership into a real partnership.
Let’s take first the management of international crises; and in this respect I would draw your attention on the case of Afghanistan. We certainly cannot afford to lose Afghanistan, because this would mean a defeat for the Afghan people. The great efforts made since 2001 in fighting terrorism, would be dramatically undercut. But to succeed, there are in my view two fundamental requirements: an attempt at national reconciliation and a deeper engagement of neighbouring countries. I know very well how India is already doing its share, particularly in terms of economic assistance. And yet we would need a regional process - able to turn all the neighbouring countries into cooperative actors. Italy intends to stay committed as long as it is necessary to make sure that the rebuilding of this long-suffering country fully succeeds.
Let me add how important we esteem cooperation with India in the fight against terrorism: this is a field where, since 2001, our bilateral relationship has been making real progress.
The second point to upgrade the Europe-India relationship is the management of global economic governance. As I mentioned earlier, I see the progressive enlargement of the G8 as necessary. It is equally necessary to achieve a trade agreement by turning the Doha Round into a success, finally overcoming well-know difficulties. I believe that – notwithstanding the short-term divergence in interests – in the long term we both have only to gain from an open trade system, allowing fair competition. The alternative would be a protectionism backlash, both in the US and in Europe.
Third point of a Europe-India agenda ought to be energy security and climate change. On energy, we are both highly dependent on imports. This dependency might trigger an intense rivalry; or, on the contrary, it could stimulate an intensified cooperation in our mutual interest. A closer multilateral cooperation among consumers, could in fact help reduce our dependency and at the same time intensify research and development of alternative sources. We need it for energy security reasons and to tackle the challenge of climate change. We clearly need the post-Kyoto agreement I was referring to before.
Climate change will also likely induce a nuclear energy revival, as the agreement between your country and the United States clearly shows – I will return to this in a moment.
Let me allude before to the fourth point, concerning nuclear proliferation. We need to establish a fully functioning non-proliferation regime. The Iranian case shows all too well that we are coping with a true loophole: the concern that the development of civilian nuclear energy might lead to the acquisition of military nuclear power. And when a government – like the one in Teheran – because of lack of transparency fails to reassure its neighbours and the international community about its objectives and its intentions, a crisis becomes inevitable. It will be crucial, in order to manage this crisis, to preserve the cohesion among the members of the Security Council. Italy will also do it best to keep Europe united.
In the Iranian case, as in all others concerning proliferation of nuclear weapons, the role of the IAEA is of paramount importance. While this role should, in our view, be strengthened as soon as possible trough the universal adoption of additional protocols, clear indication should also be given by the next sessions of the Board of Governors.
In a broader perspective, it is necessary to think how to improve and make more reliable the rules on non proliferation, adjusting them to a complex and quickly changing reality. The multilateral system of safeguards should be reinforced; its effective implementation can be greatly helped by an Indian full participation in initiatives and commitments related to this regime.
We are convinced that there is a wide sense of injustice, felt by wide sectors of the international community, as to the balance between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation: that is to say as to the real conditions for access to nuclear energy. Therefore, the non-proliferation regime’s credibility vis-à-vis the various “threshold countries” must be strengthened through the commitment of the existing nuclear powers to disarmament, as required by Article 6 of the NPT.
To sum up my reasoning: there will be growing need for civilian nuclear power also for environmental reasons. If this the case, we have two major tasks: we must increase the level of safety of nuclear plants, introducing new technologies; and we must avoid that a possible “revival” of nuclear energy generates a cascade of security problems as a consequence.
Point number five – but not least in importance – in developing closer ties between Europe and India, is the search for a shared approach to global political governance. In theory, as democracies, we tend to share the same values. In practice, however, our responses may differ at times. Let us look at the particularly acute and delicate case of Myanmar. What we see is that the European reaction is more focused on the respect for human rights – we pressed for new sanctions - but is likely to be less effective, regardless of how tough our sanction might be. While the Indian reaction is perhaps more focused also on realpolitk considerations but – given India’s material and moral influence in the region - may be more effective.
I would draw a conclusion from this: we ought to integrate our respective relative advantages and approaches, while respecting different sensibilities and priorities. In more precise terms: Italy is convinced that the goal of a more democratic, more humane world will be attained only if we prove capable of combining these two approaches, idealism and realism. What we should striving for is “ethical realism” – to borrow a term of the current debate on foreign affairs.
A truly global and effective cooperation requires a partner like India, a model of secular democracy and of a pluralist, open and multi-confessional society: the perfect testimony that values like democracy, freedom and the rule of law are not an exclusive of the Western world.
We need partners like India, whose spectacular economic growth demonstrates (to advanced societies as well) that the existence of an open international system is extremely beneficial to those who join it.
We should all be thankful to India – and you should be proud – for disproving a sort of “conventional wisdom” prevailing for too long, according to which democracy was a sort of luxury attainable only by highly developed western countries, while authoritarian governments were the only path to modernization and quick economic development. India proves the contrary. For this reason, among others, India’s role in Asia and in Asian regional cooperation is crucially important – not only in economic terms.
As I hinted above, managing today’s international system demands a respect for diversity but also serious common efforts and common rules. Stronger Europe-India ties would make a great contribution to all these goals.
After years of deadlock (which we politely called “pause for reflection”), Europe is again on the move. As we reform it internally, the real challenge is to turn Europe into a more effective global actor – not only an economic player - something Europe already is but also a political player, something Europe is becoming. I would like to be straight on this point: there is no doubt, in my view, that Europe is turning into a true global actor.
Yes, the European Union is not evolving as a classical Federation. But this is not the real point. The point is that European nation States are in any case joining forces in foreign policy and defense. We still have national differences and national inclinations: they will not disappear. But we are moving in the direction of a collective will. Independently from the final institutional set up, a global Europe is thus in the making. And here, Europe - with Italy for its part – is meeting India. With Italy for its part and with Italy as a leading driver in this direction – as witnessed by the Joint Declaration signed by the two Prime Ministers Prodi and Singh last February.
This is only the beginning of a stronger partnership we certainly need. I am confident that Italy’s commitment is fully reciprocated.