Two years down the road from the French and Dutch referenda on the European Constitution, Europe has finally shifted into gear. There is renewed demand for what Europe has to offer; positive signs of confidence in community institutions are re-emerging along with the clearer expectation of a different, dynamic Europe capable of producing results. In reality, European citizens want a Union that is truly capable of impacting on international events and of responding effectively to the new global challenges, be they economic, environmental, social or geopolitical.
There is no doubt that over these last fifty years European integration has been a major political success, and not only at the level of markets, financial flows and the common currency. Europe has impacted profoundly on European society, entering directly into the daily life of its citizens. Crossing the River Rhine today, for example, a border along which bloody battles were once fought—a veritable European “civil war” that lasted almost a century—one is only aware of passing from Germany into France thanks to the notice that appears on one’s mobile phone that the service provider has changed.
Italy has played and intends to continue to play an important role in the journey toward a united Europe. We can declare ourselves satisfied overall with the decisions by this past June’s Council of Europe, which achieved a hard-won compromise on the essential contents of the new Treaty. We now hope that this text will be approved in time for it to go into force prior to the European Parliamentary elections of 2009. Of course, Italy would have liked more. Nevertheless, all the substantial innovations contained in the Constitutional Treaty, the fruit of a delicate balance resulting from lengthy negotiations, have been maintained. We have protected the instruments that have allow the enlarged Union to function in a more effective manner and to produce the concrete results that citizens are expecting, both within Europe’s borders—employment, security, the competitiveness of our system—as well as at international level and in crisis areas. I would like to point out, for example, the institution of the Union Foreign Minister, the stable Presidency of the European Council and the rationalisation of the composition of the European Commission.