(valid only the actual speech delivered)
Quo vadis Europe?
- Since Italy has constantly been in favour of enlargement - the Italian Parliament was among the first ones in Europe to ratify Croatia's accession - allow me to shift the perspective a bit. In a sense, I would like to reverse the question: can the EU still be a driving force? The truth, in fact, is that we are undergoing, in Europe, the most serious crisis since the birth of the European community. For many years, the narrative has been that Europe would have been seriously weakened by enlargement. This is not true: in a fascinating speech in Berlin, last year, Radek Sikorsky, the Polish Foreign Minister, showed with facts and figures that the current economic crisis is not linked to enlargement. On the contrary: enlargement has increased the collective wealth of the Union. If enlargement is not the cause of the crisis, then failure comes not from an increase in numbers, but from Europe's core. in other terms: the old debate on deepening versus widening has to be reframed.
- The failure of Europe’s core, in fact, is in front of our eyes. Today it is "old" Europe that is suffering and struggling, while new members and candidate countries are those performing better and those whose enthusiasm remains unwavering. In the eurozone, on the contrary, tension between surplus and deficit countries is clear and not solved. A north-south divide could be the geopolitical consequence of the financial crisis. The old west versus east dylemma seems, in comparison, easy to manage.
- The European crisis is not only a financial and economic one. If this were the case, it would have been much easier to solve, in the very beginning, the crisis in Greece, which, after all, produces less than 3% of Europe's GDP. The reality is that the European crisis is one of political will and political vision. Both policymakers and public opinion in the core European countries are undergoing a sense of fatigue: today only 38% of the Europeans think that the EU is taking the right decisions to counter the crisis. Of course, it is true that the same polls show a declining support for most national institutions alongside the European ones. And yet, both populism and renationalization are worrying consequences of the economic crisis.
- What needs to be done is to complement our single currency with more integration in the fiscal and the banking sectors. To be short: a functioning economic Union needs more sharing of sovereignty in the direction of a political union. But here come the problems. Precisely when then the Eu is not delivering, we ask our citizens to give up other parts of sovereignty. This brings up a problem of democratic legitimacy which has not been solved or addressed so far. For the most part of Europe's history, the European Union has been based on technocratic grounds. Now, it needs to be based on more solid democratic foundations if it wishes to gain the necessary support.
- Clearly, delivery is equally important. We need to be able to combine fiscal discipline and fiscal growth strategies so as to be able to gain consensus. From this point of view, the latest European Council has made some steps forward. It was probably not enough. To be on safer grounds, the eurozone will need to become both a fiscal and a banking union while preserving the single market: a very ambitious project indeed, which is however the only realistic way to preserve the euro.
- Italy's view is that this attempt to build a more solid economic union will in the end succeed, and Prime Minister Mario Monti is putting a great effort in trying to forge a compromise between the different views on economic policy in Europe: as you know, Germany favours fiscal discipline, combined with a more federal structure. Hollande's France favours strategy for growth but less transfer of sovereignty. In Italy's view, fiscal discipline and growth are two sides of the same currency: the euro.
- Let's assume for a while that Italy's right and the eurozone will come out stronger rather than weaker from the current crisis. One possible result could be a two-speed EU. This is not by definition a sound scenario, but we must be ready to deal with it. This scenario, in my view, can work only if we are able to preserve the unity of the single market and if the the eurozone remains open, inclusive. These two points - completing the single market and avoid a “core versus the rest” Europe - ares key points for Mario Monti. Provided that these conditions are met, the paradoxical outcome of a two-speed Europe could help us at least in one way: by facilitating future enlargement prospects. It might, in other words, be a sweet and sour medicine Europe will have to swallow.