Rome, 22 June 2017
(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
Let me congratulate all the organisers and designers of the Rimini Meeting 2017. It will be a great pleasure to be in Rimini in August, together with the Secretary-General of NATO Stoltenberg.
With the words of a great German intellectual, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, you have chosen a truly stimulating title: “What you inherit from your father must first be earned before it's yours”.
In Europe, following the insanity of Nazi-Fascism and the devastation of the war, we have “earned” peace and security; rebuilding the foundations of our values of an open, pluralistic, democratic and compassionate society.
In this respect, I would like to dedicate a moved thought to a great advocate of Europeanism who left us just a few days ago: Helmut Kohl.
Helmut Kohl worked to tear down the shameful “iron curtain” that divided us in the post-war period, “earning” back a reunified Germany and building a more united, stronger and more prosperous Europe. He said: “the future will be ours once we have built the house of Europe… I doubt that the evil spirits of the past, under which we in Europe have already suffered more than enough this century, have been banished for ever…every generation will shoulder the task of preventing their return”.
The generation prior to ours has left us the legacy of the most extraordinary institutional peace project in the world – the European Union – and it is now up to us to “earn it for it to be ours”. Let us never take it for granted because it could also be set back.
Life is a continuous conquest. Every day, we risk losing our values and liberties unless we defend them.
It is our duty to look at our past because only seventy years ago the scenario was altogether different. Looking at our past helps us to perceive the horizon on a long-term, just as our founding fathers did. De Gasperi asserted: “there are many who, in politics, only go on a little excursion, like amateurs, and others consider it only an nth-rated accessory. But for me, since I was a boy, it has been a mission”.
Today the risk is not only the amateurs but the upsurge of nationalists and populists. With them we share the same democracy, the same political arena but not the same values and objectives. We live under the same sky but we don’t see the same horizon.
In Rimini, with Secretary-General of NATO Stoltenberg, we have decided to tackle the issue of security.
We must neutralise the demagogical arguments of many populist movements, that spread fear with particularly harsh tones, especially when they lose positions in the popularity ratings.
It’s not easy, but in Italy we have shown that it is possible to combine solidarity and security.
Solidarity: because we have saved tens of thousands of human lives in the Mediterranean. Security: because we have acted with firmness and determination in order to identify and expel extremists.
Yesterday, in Palermo, I was with the Royals of the Netherlands. They chose to come to Sicily to thank Italy for our efforts.
Together with the Dutch foreign minister, we talked to young Sicilians about the importance of multilateralism, in Europe and in the world, taking the example of the cooperation between Italy and the Netherlands in the UN Security Council.
I explained to the young people that I will continue to tackle the migration crisis in a spirit of cooperation and shared responsibility, which are at the basis of multilateralism. Because the migration crisis is not only Italy’s problem.
This is why a convened in Rome, on 6 July, a Ministerial Meeting of the Countries of transit and destination of migration flows along the Central Mediterranean route.
Limiting the flows is essential and will also be useful in counteracting the messages of fear disseminated by populists and nationalists, which are now the biggest threat to the stability of our democracies and of the EU.
But, in addition to controlling our borders, we must also be able to defend them. With Stoltenberg, I would like to keep our gaze on the southern shore of the Mediterranean because that is where we must “earn our security”.
As I always say: to the asymmetric threats that come from the Mediterranean we must answer on two complementary fronts: shift NATO’s axis from East to South and tangibly launch the European Common Defence project.
We are now ready to make a “quantum leap” towards the European Common Defence policy. In the Rome Declaration of 25 March, underwritten at the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, I indicated the clear need of a Europe with a greater security and defence capacity.
The time is now ripe to offer our citizens a long-term project. Unfortunately, the debate in Brussels continues to be between technocrats. We must make it political, emotionally involving citizens in a such a crucial issue for our future! I hope the Rimini Meeting will help us in this mission.
To defend our values and liberties means to defend our identity, Italian and European.
In Italy, our identity lies on an immense cultural, legal and scientific heritage, on opening up to the world and dialogue, on the spirit of enterprise and on the values of democracy, rights and liberties that enabled us to be among the Founding Fathers of the European Union.
On the basis of these values, which we share with other European partners, we have contributed to solidify the European identity. Because the European identity is not simply a set of matching interests, as we might have with many Countries, also non-European, but with which we don’t share the same identity.
The European identity is much more: it is a “common identity heritage” founded on the values of liberal democracy, the rule of law and an open market economy but also on the protection of the weakest. Ours is not wild capitalism. Ours is the social capitalism that was advocated by our Founding Fathers like Adenauer e De Gasperi, which was introduced in our Constitution and in the European Treaties.
The issue of identity is fraught with hidden dangers: such as the sterile debate between sovereigntists and Europeanists in which, on one side, stand the defenders of national identity and, on the other side, a “European super-identity” that replaces the national one. This is a pitfall of illusion.
We have to be realistic: supranational integration, which has in part challenged the idea of national identity, has not created a new “European super-identity”.
The experiments to build a “European super-identity” to replace the national one, proved to be futile and even risk becoming counterproductive: they fuel populism and nationalism.
Just as we should never make the mistake of confusing nationalism with national identity. In order to neutralise nationalism, we must reinforce national identity.
The EU is rich in diversity. At times history has tried to divide us but beware: we have always remained united by the universal values that I just mentioned: liberal democracy, the rule of law and an open market economy.
Our “common identity heritage” is mainly made up of political values and liberties. Our loftiest task is to protect and continue to rediscover them in order to hand them down to the next generations.
I, as a representative of the People’s political party, also feel to be the heir of Europe’s Christian identity heritage.
One of my priorities in foreign policy was to relaunch, reinforce and enrich our relations with the Holy See. Many of us are looking forward to the “International Conference on the Protection of Religious Communities in the World” to be hosted at the Foreign Ministry on 13 July.
With Pope Francis – who was received by President Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace last 10 June – there is profound harmony of views on many issues, such as, by way of example: relaunching the European ideals; the family, youth and employment; the painful scourge of migration; the persecution of Christian minorities; and the issue of the environment and sustainability.
We have a Pope that comes from America but who deeply loves Europe. I recall that during the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome last 25 March, the Pope invited all the European leaders to the Vatican. It was a gesture of great symbolic value and full of meaning.
I conclude with some of the truly extraordinary words that he uttered on that occasion:
The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time.
Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism…[which] are instead the fruit of an egotism.
That’s it: if we, in Europe, could only earn back the awareness of being part of a common effort and the value of solidarity that drove and inspired the Founding Fathers, we would have accomplished our political mission.
This is the only way that we will really come to possess what we have inherited from our fathers.