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Governo Italiano

Interview detail

Date:

11/13/2010


Interview detail

Minister Frattini, ever since the Pratica di Mare days, Italy has been calling for Russia to be integrated with the Euro-Atlantic security system. France and Germany seem to have picked up on Berlusconi’s idea. What will Italy say and, more to the point, do in Lisbon, in light of the fact that it can claim some “paternity” of the Euro-Russian dossier?

We worked actively with France and Germany last year to strengthen the cooperative structure of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) and we’ll continue to do so in the future. The “reset” of relations between Moscow and Washington gave rise to a concrete hope that the benefits will be felt at the multilateral level too, by imparting a qualitative boost to the proceedings of the NRC.

That’s the approach that NATO Secretary General Rasmussen has fully espoused, and in this matter Italy can but vigorously support his decisive and far-sighted action. We played a significant role in calling for an NRC summit in Lisbon, one that would establish a lasting partnership with Moscow – not least in recognition of the differences that do exist, starting with Georgia.

Security in Europe will never really be achieved if we do not engage Moscow. Russian involvement in missile defence is one of the most promising areas for cooperation. We need to restore those elements of trust and reciprocal transparency to their place at the centre of the dialogue, whether we are speaking of enlargement or of collective security in Europe. We expect the message emerging from the NATO-Russia Summit in Lisbon to move in this direction. With Russia we share strategic interests – as Italy and as members of NATO –, and not just in Europe. Avoiding zero sum games is therefore an imperative for all of us.

NATO was founded over 50 years ago as an anti-Soviet organisation in a world that no longer exists and no longer seems able to make room for potential new members like Russia. Isn’t it time to set up a new, more inclusive, body? Does Italy have a strategy in this regard?

NATO is, by definition and statute, a free and open association of states. Anyone who wishes – and is able – to contribute to collective security, both European and Euro-Atlantic, can aspire to join. Russia included. Nothing prohibits that, nothing prevents it. As for the political conditions, I believe that Russia’s full transition to the post-Soviet era is a reality that NATO began to take account of over a decade ago. In Lisbon we will also be reiterating that we do not – and must not – see Russia as an adversary. On this basis we need to be able to collaborate in the future – without any “brakes” holding us back but with a sense of trust and confidence in our reciprocal capacities.

As regards a new, alternative “body” to manage security in Europe, I don’t believe we can really view that as a concrete and realistic political prospect. Dismantling the Atlantic Alliance for something abstract and needing to be rebuilt is simply not realistic. This is a question not just of “inclusion” but of identity. NATO has taken on a role as a leading security actor in the face of the “new challenges”, starting with Afghanistan. It has a unique and irreplaceable role. It is true, however, that NATO alone cannot resolve these challenges. An ever-closer partnership between the Alliance and the European Union and the other non-NATO partner countries is needed.

Rather than as a “bastion”, as we have viewed NATO for decades, we should all, I think – and very soon – get used to the idea of NATO as a possible strategic security “lynchpin” joining East and West. In this scenario, we call upon Moscow to play its part, not in opposition to but together with, the Atlantic Alliance.

The only “positive” aspect of the clashes at the Marassi Stadium in Genoa [translator’s note: between Serbian and Italian football fans] was that it thrust Serbia-EU negotiations onto the front page. Italy says: Serbia should be in. “Inclusivity at all costs” apart, Italy does not seem to be capable of formulating a systematic Ostpolitik on the Balkans. Would you like to refute that?

That statement is refuted by the facts themselves. Our policy towards the Balkans is both systematic and multi-dimensional. Very concisely, the main planks of our Balkans strategy can be described through the increasingly structured nature, at the institutional level, of our bilateral links. To which there are a number of important corollaries:

a) in the dialogue between our civil societies

b) in the drive to regional cooperation

c) in the action taken to speed up the Euro-Atlantic integration process undertaken by the Western Balkans

d) in strengthening our economic ties.

It was this aim of accelerating the European integration process for the Balkans and making that outlook more concrete that prompted me, in 2009, to introduce an 8-point plan for the region. Those 8, very specific, points are intended to support the intense dynamics that for some time have been a feature of our trade with the Balkans. Trade which, in spite of the recent economic and financial crisis, sees us playing a leading role in all the countries of the region.

A European Union that also includes the Western Balkans (and Turkey) is not just in the interests of the countries concerned, as many commentators tend – very simplistically – to think. It is a necessary pre-condition if we want to create a Europe that is as politically and economically cohesive as possible, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

The close network of bilateral relations, some of which reinforced by inter-governmental summits (Serbia and Albania) or by Committees of Ministers (Slovenia and Croatia) is the necessary foundation for what is a key plank of our Balkan strategy: revitalised regional cooperation. The Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Adriatic Ionian Initiative (AII) – within both of which Italy plays a recognised driving role – are the main tools for this. Both organisations are at present potential catalysts in obtaining multilateral resources for projects in the region. This function must be properly developed in the future.

Italy has also begun to promote an Adriatic-Ionian Strategy, in agreement with the other five countries bordering those seas, and with Serbia. We are doing so along with Greece and Slovenia and in collaboration with the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions. Last but not least, our concrete and effective Ostpolitik with respect to the Balkans is recognised by each leader of the countries of the region, leaders whom I meet very frequently. This is not just a recognition of Italy’s role. These leaders understand the potential of a medium-term vision of integration that could well guarantee the stability and prosperity of the area.

Erdogan recently attended the event commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. The “emerging-economy” Turkey sits alongside a neo-Ottoman Turkey that can be alarming, including in the Balkans. You seem to be a fan of Turkey. Don’t you think the time has come to start thinking about some form of strategic containment with respect to Ankara?

I don’t share that alarm over Ankara’s policy towards the Western Balkans. On the contrary, we share with Turkey an interest in stabilising the region. Italy is paying close attention to Turkey’s Balkans policy, which combines traditional elements such as geographical and cultural proximity with innovative approaches compared with the past, elements designed to promote “good neighbour” relations.

The “triangular diplomacy” taken forward with respect to Serbia-plus-Bosnia and Bosnia-plus-Croatia is nurturing a renewed climate of regional cooperation, after the tragedies of the 1990s. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, in particular, Italy and Turkey are acting jointly to maintain the territorial integrity and multi-ethnic nature of the country, a symbol of the centuries-long co-existence of different ethnic communities and religious faiths there.

In this light, we have opened consultations with Ankara. It is our hope that Turkish diplomacy will continue to work with us, in line with the Euro-Atlantic prospects of the region. Only by following this approach will it be possible to end the fruitless spiral of special interests and see a new model of economic and social development enter into force, one based on integration and openness rather than fragmentation and closed minds.

No “containment” strategy should be applied to Turkey. On the contrary, Ankara needs to play a full part in the western system, including through EU membership – which Italy actively supports. Turkey is a young, dynamic country that is experiencing rapid economic growth. It can tie together Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Its contribution in promoting security, including from the energy perspective, is irreplaceable; its unique ability to engage in dialogue with the entire Islamic and Middle-Eastern world and its influence in Central Asia make it an essential partner for Europe. Which will soon be able to count on an important market for its exports.

We’ve been left empty-handed as far as “weighty” ambassadorial appointments in the EU’s fledgling diplomatic service are concerned. Why did the Italian foreign ministry (MFA) not manage to obtain more from High Representative Ashton? Was it a slight to our nation for promoting D’Alema’s name, without success?

High Representative Ashton’s recent European ambassadorial appointments were only the first step in setting up a European diplomatic service (the European External Action Service, or EEAS). Anyway, top-ranking Italian officials will be posted to Tirana and Uganda. This was the first tranche of EU missions abroad. Taking into account the breakdown of 1/3 each from member states, Commission and Council, the 27 member states will each have about 10 posts, and no more.

I don’t believe that Italy does not have the necessary importance in the EU institutions. 10.5% of their officials are Italian and in recent years we have seen a faster-than-ever rise in our middle-management presence. And at the very top level, 8 Director-General or Deputy Director-General posts in the European Commission are held by Italian officials, while the growth in the numbers of women is another source of satisfaction. So we have a “flow” of Italian career officials into the European institutions, a flow that should increase in coming years.

However, we’re not so happy with our position at policy-making levels, or with the slight deterioration in our presence in top posts. We need more Directors General, especially in the crucial sectors of competition policy, state aid and fiscal policy. The challenge is to create a true European management class in Italy. To do so, we need to bring together, and encourage to act as a “system”, all the Italian individuals and organisations working in and around the European institutions in Brussels, along with our government departments at both central and local level.

The MFA, the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE), Confindustria (employers’ association), Chambers of Commerce and Regions: they all need to contribute to a team game that guides and trains the ranks of young Italians looking to the European Union for employment opportunities. At the MFA we’re equipping ourselves to train our youngest diplomats – those with up to 10 years’ service – for the selection tests. This is a form of broad-spectrum training that ranges from European law to the practices in force in the European institutions. We’re also finding out which positions will become available in the next few years and planning our training strategy accordingly. We won’t see the results straight away but we’re sure as of now that we’ll be able to provide the EEAS with a strong input of professionalism and expertise from our diplomats.

President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel’s office would like to reform the Lisbon Treaty to introduce better rules on national debt and budgetary deficits. It seems that Merkel, who until recently championed a rigorous approach, has relaxed her position slightly. Don’t you think that the Germans might have “cynically” realised that the more other countries’ debt increases, the more relative power Berlin acquires?

The European Council of 28-29 October defined the policy lines of the EU’s new economic governance architecture. By the end of summer 2011 these will need to be translated into specific legislative provisions. We all agree on the need for stricter rules to ensure that countries meet their common commitments to reduce deficits and debt and to free up resources for growth and employment. We’re very pleased that the concept of “overall fiscal sustainability” has been accepted. Italy insisted strongly on this, in the conviction that private finance was one of the main causes of the crisis.

At Germany’s initiative, amendments were proposed to the Treaty to set up a permanent crisis-management mechanism. This would help eurozone countries experiencing difficulties to refinance their sovereign debt. This new mechanism would take the place, at the expiry date in 2013, of the temporary one put in place to – successfully – tackle the Greek crisis. This is a vital element if we are to give the markets the certainty they need and guarantee stability for the eurozone. We will need to work on these matters over the next few weeks to prepare the decisions to be taken by the European Council in December. It’s important, however, to underline that the line defended by Italy, that of limited amendments to the Lisbon Treaty, has been accepted. This approach is intended to prevent the Pandora’s Box of constitutional amendments to the Treaty being opened. Opening that box would have required a wearisome ratification process – the outcome of which by no means certain – by the 27 EU member states.

Will the Italian Government support the candidacy of Mario Draghi [translator’s note: governor of the Bank of Italy] to be governor of the European Central Bank? Do you already have a strategy in place at the European level to help his bid?

Governor Draghi is certainly a strong candidate. His undoubted abilities, which are unanimously recognised at the European level, are quite a trump card for Italy. But it’s early days for a decision and any talk of a strategy at the European level would be premature.


Location:

Rome

Author:

by Edoardo Ferrazzani

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