"Minorities are a bridge between nations and cultures". This is the innovative value contained in the De Gasperi-Gruber Treaty that Paolo Gentiloni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, wishes to highlight on the occasion of its 70th anniversary.
Minister Gentiloni, the 5th of September is the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the De Gasperi-Gruber Treaty. What should be the future role of the special autonomous region of Trentino Alto Adige in an Italian and European context?
"Seventy years after its signing, the De Gasperi-Gruber Treaty still preserves its innovative and modernizing drive. In a global, European an Mediterranean context, where open and "frozen" conflicts multiply, it stands as a point of reference to help us solve crises involving ethnic and linguistic minorities. It is an agreement that has allowed us to turn an area of conflict and friction into a region of peace and development within the framework of the process to build Europe. Thanks to the principles of cooperation and integration that the De Gasperi-Gruber Treaty enshrines, it stands as a warning against Europe's growing risk of going back to closing its borders and nationalistic reasoning."
Italy's President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, said that "autonomy is not an undeserved privilege, but it certainly lays down additional responsibilities." In what way can Trentino Alto Adige put these additional responsibilities into practice?
"Of course it's not up to me to interpret the words of the Head of State. I can only say that his words effectively grasp the political value of the status of autonomy of the Trentino Alto Adige region. In addition to awarding the same rights conferred to Italian-speaking people also to the populations speaking minority languages, the status of autonomy confers to the region extensive legislative and executive powers. The innovative value of the De Gasperi-Gruber Treaty was precisely that of endowing the special autonomous region with effective instruments enabling minorities to act as a bridge between different nations and cultures; very important instruments therefore, to be responsibly enforced in the respect of the founding values of the European Union."
President Mattarella also cited «the political proposal of a federation» championed by De Gasperi, acknowledging that the project «remains the only one that is historically valid». How far are we from achieving this target and what must Europe do to meet current challenges?
"De Gasperi was a man of vision as when he called the construction of a united Europe 'a myth of peace'. It is a project that is currently going through a very delicate phase, which clearly cannot be overcome by merely making rethoric declarations. Rather, we should all give factual proof that the European Union and our democracies are able to effectively respond to our citizens' concerns, above all on security, immigration and economic growth. On the issue of security, we have launched a proposal to establish a "Schengen Defence agreement" and we must press ahead in jointly fighting the terrorism perpetrated by Daesh and the symbolic attraction it also exerts in Europe. In relation to immigration, a phenomenon we know is bound to be long-lasting, we need the EU to make a collective effort to welcome those who are eligible to stay and repatriate all others. We also need to make a long-term investment in Africa, as postulated by Italy's "Migration Compact" proposal. Finally, growth: we must give new momentum to investments, complete the establishment of the European Banking Union, strengthen the single market and create a European insurance against unemployment."
In less than a month Austria will return to the polls to repeat the presidential election ballot and one of the two candidates represents the Country's right-wing nationalist party; in Hungary citizens will be called upon to say whether they accept the Union's quota system for the distribution of refugees. These are two critical events that may fuel nationalist drives right after the almost tragic event of a few months ago, when Austria announced its intention to build a wall at the Brenner Pass. Does that worry you? Is there a possibility that Austria might again propose the same solution?
"As regards the ballot for the Austrian presidential elections, whatever comes out of the polls will in no way undermine either the fruitful cooperation between Rome and Vienna or the need to continue to work together towards our common European ideals. Due to its historical geopolitical and economic relevance, Austria is and will remain for us a fundamental partner also on the migration issue. From this point of view, the Brenner Pass represents for us a bridge and certainly not a barrier between Italy, Austria and Europe. Italy will do everything necessary for it to continue to be a symbol of integration."
As for the constitutional referendum, the Democratic Party - PD - has taken a cautious and in some cases negative stand. This is also true for the Trentino Alto Adige region because there is concern that a centralistic reform may weaken the Special Autonomy Status. What message would you like to convey to the inhabitants of this region?
"The reform does not rest on a centralistic structure; rather it is focused on simplicity. We are working to build a simpler Country, capable of making decisions with greater speed and transparency. The constitutional reform is a step in this direction, especially if we consider that competing competencies between the State and non-autonomous regions have often caused confusion and disputes in the past. Trentino Alto Adige's Special Status of Autonomy is an important development factor and it is protected under the reform."