(Please check against actual speech delivered)
Europe and Latin America are bound by deep historical, political, socio-economic and linguistic ties. Beyond these interconnections, our two continents are united by a strong ideational conviction, which will be the focus of my remarks today: that is the belief that regionalism is the most effective route to pursue peace and prosperity for our citizens. Through regionalization, conflicts can be managed through institutionalized channels. In a globalized and increasingly polycentric world, regional cooperation and integration is also the most effective way to promote our respective material and immaterial interests, and values, in the wider world.
Regionalism has for decades been a strongly felt European idea. The promotion of regionalism has been a hallmark of the EU’s external action. Whether explicitly stated or implicitly assumed, the European Union has been viewed by Europeans and non-Europeans alike as the “reference model” for regional cooperation and integration, although this has not necessarily meant that the European project should or can be emulated in toto by other world regions. Consequently, the European Union has promoted regionalism through a variety of means, including technical and financial assistance in support for regional institutions, programmes and projects, the liberalization of trade, as well as institutionalized forms of political dialogue.
The essence of the EU integration project has been – still is – a point of reference for many and different regions of the world. Not last, Latin America.
Still, the last EU elections have shown a certain degree of “euro-skepticysm” (to use a euphemism): there’s a growing anxiety of EU citizens towards the difficulty that EU institutions have in delivering to the citizens themselves.
Voters across the European Union have givena loud signal in the European elections that they are unhappy with their economic and social situation. The euro area suffers from two key problems: unsatisfactory economic growth and unstatisfactory job creation rate. The economic crisis is still affecting the lives of millions of Europeans.
During the electoral campaign, as the economic crisis deepened, what I call “anti-system” voices have raised to proclaim that life would have been easier in a Europe without the EU.
The political debate for months seemed to increasingly polarize Europeans around misleading political dividing lines: austerity versus growth; the ‘North’ versus the ‘South’; national interest versus the European ones.
The Government I represent, made a different choice. Instead of giving a vote against Europe,or against the european union integration, we asked our citizens a vote for a new Europe. We asked Italians to realize that we are not something different from Europe, but the core of it. That there is no distance from Rome and Brussels, but on the contrary that we do have a direct and crucial responsibility in whatever is decided – by all of us togheter– in Brussels. We asked for a mandate to change Europe. And that is what the Italian citizens did. Overwhelmingly.
With that vote of confidence, the Italian Government has assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, committed to give the post-electionEU a strong focus on what can be accomplished by initiating a job- friendly economic recovery and growth in Europe.
As European leaders we know that our coordinated action must focus more and more on delivering results to citizens. And that’s our first commitment: change Europe and its policies.
Putting public finances on a sound footing is important. And while enacting national reforms that create jobs we have to make sure that those reforms are also consistent with the prerogatives of monetary union. But without a European growth initiative, it will be harder and harder, if not impossible, to deliver. That is why we are working and asking our EU friends to do that together to develop a convincing European growth strategy. We have precidency un a transition period. It can be a transition or a new start and this is the challenge.
I know we know that for Latin America and other world regions, the EU remains the basic reference point, which while not directly emulated, is an important guiding light. This is why the manner in which the European Union exits its current existential crisis is and will be of fundamental relevance not only for itself but, for the future of regionalism worldwide.
In this respect, the EU’s economic and political crisis since 2010 has fed a new and dangerous narrative regarding not only the fact that the EU model may after all not be sustainable, but also that deep regional integration per se may not be desirable. Indeed, the last four years have seen the Union marked by deep polarization, fragmentation and asymmetry in different policy domains, between member states, among leaders and between leaders and citizens.
We need to change for the sake of EU and of regionalism worldwide (including in Latin America).
The challenge is that of contrasting centrifugal forces byworking to realize a new Europe, one that reconciles Europeans with the integration project by re-endowing the Union with its lost legitimacy, in terms of its ability to deliver peace and prosperity to its citizens and to do so through an inclusive and accountable democratic process. Europe today needs a new narrative. At its outset, the European project was about cementing peace in the continent after the devastation brought about by two world wars and a genocide. With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the challenge became that of reunifying Europe within a liberal world order. Today, those convictions are still with us. But alone they are insufficient. In a 21st century that is witnessing a profound shift in global power, a new European narrative can converge on how to ensure European resilience in a polycentric world and encourage a peaceful transition towards a new consensual global order both as an actor and as a model to other world regions. To do so, the EU must be legitimate and effective within its borders, and from this position it must be able to project its full economic, strategic and normative weight in its neighbourhood and beyond.
It is through a new, post-crisis, EU that Europe will concomitantly save itself and continue to play its rightful role as an actor and reference point in the wider world, starting from Latin America.
In this context, I believe in a political and strategic relationship between the two regions. The increasing weight and activism displayed by the American subcontinent on a global scale can function as a tremendous push in this direction. For our part, as Italians and Europeans, we need to grasp the political implications of this new scenario and propose a strategic platform that is up the challenges we are facing. A platform to be built together.
The economic crisis, which occurred in 2008 and has still a firm grip on our economies, has not only changed for the worse social conditions and lifestyle of us Europeans - starting with the youngest generations. It has also marked a certain stagnation in the relationship between the two regions. Nevertheless, the European Union continues to be the first direct investor and the second largest trading partner in the area.
Despite a negative and controversial global economic climate, the Latin American region, with its unique endowment of natural resources, has been able to cope -especially in the first period – with the blows of the crisis. Now even you are being affected by a slow-down in the growth and economic problems, although at a much lower scale than us, thanks to the ability of many countries in promoting social inclusion policies of large segments of the population afflicted by poverty and until then marginalized; the expansion of the internal market; the promotion of social justice and equity. All of that with an attention - which in recent years has translated in direct political representation – to the pre-Columbian native peoples.
I am convinced that this was possible through the consolidation of democracy and the will – asserted by the elected institutions - to address social needs with innovative public policies. My interpretation of events is that even social protests, that would have been unimaginable in the past, advocating for more and better services, are precisely a result of the growth policies that, along with the economy, allowed the society to grow, together with its protagonism, needs and demands, in a nutshell, its citizenship awareness. I ask, respectfully, a question: in addition to Brazil, in which other BRIC countries would that be possible?
I have personally participated, not very recently, in moments of collective analysis and elaboration of the like of the Porto Alegre’s "Social Fora" and, going back with the memory to those activities and the role played by personalities who would later be in power in their countries – like President Lula - I can say that it was there that the some of the very foundations were laid for the subsequent public policies that would later prove to be successful.
I am aware that many Latin American governments, in the last period, are wondering on how to defend this trend of growth, how to maintain it, strengthen it and diversify it; on the sustainability of social policies that have been adopted; on how to tackle new inequalities.
Ahead of us we have some significant challenges for the future, such as redefining a shared strategy with the goal of a new partnership between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean, based on the historical, cultural complementarities between our two regions. In this framework, takes also place the common fight against climate change. We have high expectations on these issues with respect to the role and involvement of Latin American region may have in redefining a global climate deal. Even in the case of UN Agenda post-2015, our respective needs and commitment may be based on sustainable development, economic stability, support to economic growth and free trade, clean and renewable energies, food security, social inclusion and gender equality. I think we ha a common agenda e we should work on that.
The Italian presidency of the EU strongly supports the need to finalize all trade agreements being negotiated with the aim of creating an unprecedented development, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, in the economic relations between our regions. In particular, we will work to give great importance to the support of European foreign policy with aim to reviving the EU-Mercosur negotiations, strengthening the EU-Mexico dialogue, and resuming the one with Central America on safety issues.
Looking beyond the Italian Presidency, I would like to underline that the preparation of the second EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) to be held in June 2015 in Brussels, is of great importance. Italy is committed to revive the EU-ECLAC agenda. This is also why I took the opportunity given by my attendance, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in Bogota, to the President Santos inauguration ceremony, to ask for a meeting with the delegation of Costa Rica. We will thus begin to speak to each other directly, the Italian Foreign Minister, President of the EU, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, President pro tempore of the ECLAC. It seems to me a good start, with your support we can work on that.
But ... as the two temporary presidencies will pass, the States’ external projection is here to stay. For this reason, it is my firm intention to put the relationship with Latin America back among the priorities of the foreign policy of Italy, one of the founding members of the European Union and a country so intrinsically tied to this region.
This visit, even in the midst of a dramatic crisis in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, in which we are naturally called to play a protagonist role - sometimes as in Libya almost alone - and my other mission to Argentina, Mexico and Cuba, which I have planned for October, together with my visit to Brazil, scheduled at the beginning of 2015, clearly demonstrate our commitment, which is not only mine, but the entire government of President Renzi.
A further evidence of our political will is represented by our Italy-Latin America and the Caribbean Conferences. This is for us a very important occasion of interaction with the whole region. Before the 2013 sixth edition, these conferences were instruments of Italian foreign policy "towards" Latin America. With the unanimous approval of the Final Declaration of the Sixth Conference, by all 20 countries that form part of the IILA (the glorious Istituto Italo-Latino Americano), they are now a "common" tool, shared by our 21 countries, to foster dialogue, exchange and build common ideas and policies for growth.
Precisely for this reason we proposed that the next Conference, the Seventh, is being held in June 2015, immediately after the conclusion of the EU-CELAC summit in Brussels. We hope that many foreign ministers, representatives of many governments and - we would very much like so - some Presidents, may come on 12 June to Milan, where, in the framework of the Universal Exhibition, the seventh Conference of Italian-American Latin America and the Caribbean will also take place.
Among the issues that we would like to work on, starting with energy, food and sustainability (which will covered by the Expo), there are those relating to innovation and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. These are issues that unite us deeply. Without continuous innovation and research (scientific, product related, and through the network of technology centers), the frame of our small and medium enterprises would cease to be the tool against the crisis that we all appreciate. Such a valuable experience demands to be socialized, we do not want to keep it for ourselves. To this purpose, in this coming December, IILA will be the venue of an unprecedented exchange of scientific and operational knowledge on small and medium-sized enterprises, which will take place between business operators and government representatives from many countries of Latin America and their Italian counterparts.
Furthermore, the Italian contribution, because of the historical roots of our emigration in some areas of Latin America, could also translate into a virtuous mobilization of territories and local partnerships.
Because Association Agreements, although extremely important, must be integrated and complemented with territorial and political Agreements. It is on this ground that we can rediscover a shared "attractiveness", a mutual appeal.
Moreover, the 'Argentine case' has brought again to our attention the problem of sovereign debt and the mechanisms of international financial governance: highlighting the need for reforming global governance, with the same approach we want to tackle issues such as the security of migrants (especially the minors), the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking, the defense of natural resources.
Europe must understand the importance of a kind of "enhanced political dialogue" that allows to conceive a strategic partnership between the EU and ECLAC. We must avoid marking our next summit with “continuity". It will have to be able to express factors of structural change in a rapidly changing global context. We'll have to improve our effectiveness by generating more consensus and involvement of all partners. And we must, above all, gain legitimacy in the eyes of our public opinions and our social actors.
Several years ago, in a different capacity, I happened to come to Chile. Then I found myself with friends and that I have known since many years. Today I found them as leaders of their countries, and it gives me great joy. Today, in the new political and institutional role that I myself have come to play, I will not forget that I had crossed "that port of entry". I want to understand better -with respect and admiration- an area that has given and is giving so much to our common planet and hope in this way, that we will be able, together, to give our contribution to our mutual growth.