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Mr Børge Brende,
Mrs Irene Khan,
Mr Giuseppe Recchi,
Mr Mauro Moretti,
Mr Paul Adamson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank the World Economic Forum, and especially Prof. Klaus Schwab, for organising this meeting. I am delighted that Rome and Villa Madama have been chosen to host such an eminent and authoritative group to discuss how to rebuild Europe’s competitiveness.
We must rebuild it, I believe, within the European system itself. And at the same time, we must make Europe more competitive in, and with respect to, the world surrounding it.
In this closing session, I am pleased to be able to sum up some of the key points that Prime Minister Monti and other government colleagues have illustrated here today.
The European Union is experiencing a period of profound change. The ability of the countries of Europe to go on funding public debt on the markets has had serious repercussions on the real economy. We have had to act with decision and adopt measures that in some cases have been painful. It could not be otherwise, because the euro must be considered the first and most important factor of competitiveness for the European Union as a whole.
Rebuilding Europe’s competitiveness is, therefore, a crucial challenge. A crisis that did not originate in Europe, but whose result has been to bring the various foundations of our project into question. The time has come, therefore, to promote a strong and effective revival of the entire European project, to channel all of the available energies into revitalising our competitiveness – on the economic level, on the political and institutional levels, and in our relations with our partners.
From the growth perspective, the way to stimulate competitiveness will involve innovation, reducing the bureaucratic burdens on business, promoting investment and creating a legislative framework more favourable to development. This should include the daily practice of the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
In European terms, this programme translates, firstly, into completing the Single Market, by removing the remaining barriers and thus benefitting citizens, consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises.
There is enormous potential in the Single Market, which we must exploit. To promote “green” growth; the transition of our industry to highly energy-efficient production systems; to achieve inter-connectivity and, at the same time, to open up competition in the “network” industries (energy and transport). Italy has already done a great deal in this field; other partners should be encouraged to follow suit.
During this period we are negotiating the Multi-Annual Financial Framework for 2014-20. Italy is pressing for the EU budget to focus on growth. It is pressing, too, for the research and infrastructure instruments, but also the Cohesion Funds and the Rural Development Funds, to provide a stronger stimulus for growth and employment, and thus make a significant contribution to the development strategy.
If the progress made on the economic integration front is to be recognised by citizens, it must be accompanied by progress at the political level too.
We need to avoid the situation arising where the progress made in recent months towards a true Economic and Monetary Union is perceived as a technocratic exercise, or worse, by public opinion.
In the report he is working on in the run-up to the December European Council, President Van Rompuy rightly stresses the importance of strengthening the role of the European Parliament and the national Parliaments in the economic governance of the Union.
A number of options to do so have been suggested, including in the final report of the Foreign Ministers’ Reflection Group on the Future of Europe that met in 2012 at the initiative of my friend and colleague, Guido Westerwelle. Some of the proposals could be implemented under the existing treaties, but will require an effort on the part of the European political forces if we are finally to achieve a true European “agora” – a space where citizens can fully identify with their institutions. In other words, we must foster the creation of an authentic “European political space”, as President Napolitano has proposed, that can count on strong participation by citizens.
Allow me to reiterate the need for the dialogue on European competitiveness not to be limited to the economic and financial fields, or to the necessary institutional reforms. It must also include the deeper principles underlying the European project. I am referring here to the “emotional union” posited by Jean-Pierre Lehmann. The generation before ours experienced a Europe that burnt an immense legacy of human lives, talents and resources in war.
The next generation experienced a well-being and prosperity that had never existed before in Europe. If we want to safeguard this result, I believe we must look beyond the political news and the economic cycle to establish a close and intensive dialogue on the future of Europe. The experience of recent decades needs to be brought to bear against the challenges now facing us. As a result, we need to develop a positive agenda of values and interests shared and agreed with our partners. Solidarity, responsibility, the promotion of the rule of law and human rights must continue to be the inspiring principles not just of our actions within Europe but also of the Union’s international profile.
Like states, Europe too acquires shape and form, is recognised and respected if it is capable of projecting itself to the rest of the world in an effective and responsible manner. Especially to our neighbours, to the south and to the east – it is vital for us to play a leading role in fostering their development and stability. We will continue to press to ensure that the resources and instruments of the European Union are fit for the challenges facing us, especially on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, where the demand for a strong European presence is most urgent.
The challenge of international competitiveness for the “European system” is complex. We need to tackle it without preconceptions; with a full awareness of the means at our disposal – which are by no means insignificant. A whole series of EU instruments – from international trade, to development aid, to the management of migratory flows, to human rights – need to be managed with an overarching vision.
Trade, for example, is the sphere where the European Union can and must play its own, precise leadership role. The conclusions of the last European Council, on 18/19 October, remind us that an ambitious European trade development agenda could lead, in the medium term, to an increase of 2% in GDP. Europe must therefore look, without bias or preconceptions, to international trade and foster its development. On condition that – again citing the conclusions – it is “free, fair and open”.
In keeping with this approach, Italy firmly supports, and will go on supporting, the action taken to strengthen relations with the EU’s strategic partners – partners such as China, Japan, Russia and the United States. We must go on working and building on those relationships with a pragmatic and results-oriented approach.
The most effective measure of Europe’s competitiveness is the power of attraction it exerts on the countries knocking on its door. In under 20 years, the European Union has grown from 12 to 27 member states. On 1 July 2013 Croatia will become a member, and another 8 countries are current or potential candidates. The most positive judgement of the path we have followed comes precisely from our neighbours. Can we let them down? Can we keep them out? It is in our mutual interest for the accession process to allow future member states to keep up with the others and thus play their rightful part in our common project. If an important neighbour like Turkey applies to enter, we cannot look in the other direction. The Europe of the future will be stronger, more credible, more competitive if it opens its doors to the Turkish people too.
In short, the message with which I will leave you is that in the far-ranging changes we have introduced to the internal governance of the Union, and in the way we present ourselves as a Union to the rest of the world, it is essential for the underlying political will to assert itself evermore clearly. We ourselves must be the first to see clearly the need to ensure that our actions are rooted in sound, common values that are the fruit of our shared vision of the far-sighted political project contained in the Treaty of Rome.
The unbreakable tie that links the internal policies and external action of the Union emerges with the utmost clarity in the reasons for the award of the Nobel Prize for Peace 2012 to the European Union: "over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".