“LE NUOVE RELAZIONI TRANSATLANTICHE”
Let me begin by saying that is a great honour for me to address such a prestigious audience. I must congratulate Gaetano Quagliariello, the President of the “Fondazione Magna Carta” and Danielle Pletka, the vice-President of the American Enterprise Institute, for having organised such an interesting Conference.
The recently published “Transatlantic Trends” report states that “in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, American and European policymakers have maintained a pragmatic tone, setting aside past differences over Iraq to highlight cooperation on common challenges in Afghanistan, Iran and the global economy”. In other words, despite recurring criticism and doubts, cooperation between the two sides of the Atlantic is still “alive and well” and the bonds of mutual friendship run very strong and deep. The Transatlantic Relationship remains today, more than ever, at the core of international relations.
In the last two decades the world has changed. Thankfully we no longer have a bipolar order dominated by confrontation between two superpowers with Europe as the fault-line. Cooperation has replaced confrontation. However we are living, indeed, difficult times, which bring extraordinary dangers, as well as extraordinary opportunities.
The world is changing under the influence of supranational, transnational and sub national powers, such as those of regional organizations, multinational corporations but also organised crime, and separatist movements. There are new global threats (global warming, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism). And regional threats (in Middle East, Caucasus, Africa and elsewhere). There are also new international players: China, India, Brasil, to name a few.
These developments and challenges require a new kind of global governance that Europe and US must shape together.
Although it sometimes seems inevitable, unilateralism is an inappropriate and insufficient answer to the interconnected threats and challenges we all have to face. A common vision, a single purpose and joint actions between Europe and US are indispensable. As allies and partners, US and Europe are irreplaceable to each other. What makes the transatlantic bond really unique, oriented to the future as much as anchored to the past, is the magnitude of the ideals – and of the interests – that we share.
We share the belief in liberty and the dignity of the individual as universal values, on which no compromise is admissible. We share the belief in democracy as the best possible model to provide the ideals of freedom and justice with their accomplished political expression. And we are both aware that the practical implementation of this ideal has to adjust in its form and timing, in order to take account of different situations, traditions and cultures. The interests we share are a direct consequence of the principles we believe in, as liberal democracies and free-market economies.
The year 2003 was the year of the agonising divisions between America and Europe, and within Europe itself, over the course of action to take in Iraq. It was a dramatic but instructive chapter. We Europeans have learnt that a strong relationship with the US is vitally instrumental to strengthen the unity of Europe; and, conversely, that tensions in our relationship with the US are a source of divisions and a factor of weakness for Europe. And it goes without saying that a weak and divided Europe will not be in a position to cope with the global threats and challenges as effectively as it should.
But the US learnt lessons too. It learnt that to be successful in tackling those threats and challenges – threats and challenges nobody can face alone - America needs to rely on all the help it can gather from its friends and allies. And the US knows that a united Europe, which is willing and able to be actively involved as a global player, is the most trusted and credible ally and partner on which it can rely, as President Bush himself has often acknowledged.
On both sides of the Atlantic we are now approaching a season of important changes. The way we will manage them will greatly influence the way we will be able to shape our alliance in the immediate future.
In the US, the election of a new President represents a very important change which will have great influence worldwide. The interest and enthusiasm with which the world is following the exciting twists and turns of this campaign are the most tangible and reassuring pieces of evidence that the global appeal of the US is far from declining. The next US Administration’s foreign policy could partially differ from that of the Bush Administration. In any case, the Transatlantic Relationship will continue to be a priority for Washington, as both presidential candidates, Senator McCain and Senator Obama, have stated several times.
In Europe we are also on the eve of important innovations, as well as challenges of great significance. As you know the 27 member States of the EU have signed a Treaty introducing substantial improvements in the institutional architecture and the decision-making procedures of the Union. I very much hope that in 2009 such innovations will enter into force despite the blow suffered with the recent referendum in Ireland rejecting the Treaty of Lisbon. Europe cannot afford to spend any more time paralyzed in the quicksand of the never-ending institutional negotiations which have been conducted for the last seven years. Globalisation is, indeed, progressing much quicker than our discussions on the reform of European Union institutions.
Europe must get its act together. We need a stronger Europe, a global player which can be a serious and reliable partner to the US. A partner which does not avoid its responsibilities, especially in the sensitive field of defence and security policy, but is willing and able to take them on in an appropriate manner. An ally who is finally capable of producing security, instead of being a net consumer at America’s expense. The leading European statesmen and the heads of key European institutions now all agree that building stronger ties with the US is an essential precondition of strengthening Europe’s cohesiveness and our ability to achieve the goal of being a stronger global player.
A strong Europe needs a strong US. Washington is and will remain “the” crucial international player. Not everyone agrees. Some analysts have pointed out a trend of a progressive erosion or decline in the global standing of the US. This is not my view. In my opinion, the recurring prophecies of a declining power of the US will not be fulfilled.
True, the emergence of new/old global players is an inescapable reality. This new fact does not imply, however, that the US is going to lose its world-wide pre-eminence anytime soon. The influence America is able to exert world-wide is also immaterial, something which is more difficult to measure objectively but is nonetheless extremely powerful.
Without a strong and determined global leadership from the US, there is little hope of success for the international community in tackling the complex challenges we face. And I believe that Europe, which rightly aims at being recognized the role, the status and the responsibilities of a global player, has a clear mission to pursue in this respect. The mission to help the US exercise its leadership as effectively and successfully as possible. More Europe, not less America: this should be our motto when we talk about transatlantic ties.
In the global agenda there is no shortage of issues where such a joint leadership could and should be exercised: Afghanistan (where our common values and credibility are at stake); Middle East (where I would like to see a more political role of the European Union); Iran (where we have to implement a delicate “double track” policy – sanctions and dialogue); a reshaping of the international governance (in favour of an effective multilateralism); climate change (one of the main preoccupation of the American and European public opinion); international security (rising energy prices and economic turbulence seem to have shifted the political agenda away from terrorism in both US and Europe); promotion of democracy and human rights (which is a crucial element of the transatlantic identity).
As for the instruments of our cooperation, we need, in particular, to broaden the NATO-EU relationship. This is not something that you can radically do overnight. But with a healty dose of flexibility, pragmatism and, above all, political will we could achieve this goal, as the EU develops its new security strategy and NATO considers a revision of its own Strategic Concept. I believe it is important to remind that what unites NATO and EU nations is, by far, more and stronger that what may divide them. In the near future no other group of nations will cooperate more closely among each other. Nor will there be another group that can generate a similar kind of “magnetism” in terms of promoting political and security cooperation. And no other group of nations will have the institutional toolkit (NATO and the EU) that is essential to facilitate such cooperation.
However the Atlantic Alliance remains the keystone of both the US and European foreign and security policies. NATO has already proved capable of transforming itself, adjusting to new contexts and threats. Now we have to make every effort to ensure that NATO succeeds in the crucial missions in which its forces are currently engaged, from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and where one of the most precious assets of the Alliance, its credibility, is at stake. The value added which NATO can provide goes beyond the merely military dimension. We should strive to deepen and improve the political dimension of the Alliance, in order to continue to provide a permanent forum for consultations between allies.
For Italy, a strong and vital transatlantic relationship is of paramount importance. The Italian Government is willing and ready to contribute to the attainment of this goal. For Italy Atlanticism is a founding element, a cornerstone of its foreign policy.
The Italian challenge is to provide constructive contributions to the building of a more efficient and effectively functioning multilateral system, which is the most appropriate answer to the complex challenges and threats that the international community has to address. We have a real opportunity to do so also within the G8, of which Italy will have the Presidency next year and which has a specific responsibility to deal with some of these pressing and crucial global issues.
One of the overarching principles of the Italian Presidency of G8 will be the strengthening of outreach activities. We strongly believe in the need of engaging a growing number of actors in finding viable and sustainable solutions to the major global challenges. Therefore, our aim is to involve not only the G8 and the O5 (the five major emerging economies), according to a “variable geometry” scheme; we intend to include in our dialogue all the countries that can give a useful contribution to the efforts of coordination and cooperation in the regions that, due to their instability and exposure to radicalization, are more directly threatened by the spreading of terrorist groups.
Nowadays the transatlantic relationship has to overcome a new test: the crisis between Russia and Georgia. While showing different sensitivities on the approach to choose especially vis-à- vis Moscow, up to now US and Europe have been able to take and keep a common line. We have deplored Russia’s excessive use of military force in Georgia and condemned its unilateral decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We have called unanimously on the Russian government to withdraw its forces behind the pre-conflict lines. We have expressed our full support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. We have supplied emergency aid to Georgia and decided to convey an international conference to assist its reconstruction.
The European Union under the French presidency has played a crucial role to stop the conflict and to develop a policy for a peaceful and lasting solution to the crisis. In particular, EU has decided to send an independent civilian observer mission to Georgia; has expressed its readiness to prepare and participate in the future international discussion on the resolution of the crisis; has supported the idea of an independent international inquiry into the conflict. In other words, the EU has shown to be capable to make the difference also in such a delicate situations.
Italy have kept a politically balanced approach throughout the crisis. On the one hand, it has fostered a firm position and solidarity with its European and American allies. On the other hand, we have not renounced to develop an open and positive dialogue with Moscow. Without such a dialogue, we would reverse to a confrontational atmosphere between Russia and the West which would be of no use to anyone.
Russia has a long tradition of being a European and world power. To regain its status as major power has been the first priority of Russian foreign policy during the Presidency of Putin. In many respects, this objective has been achieved. Russia is back. This is a fact we have to take into account. A constructive cooperation with Moscow – both in the NATO and EU context - is indispensable to face successfully all the most important international problems: Afghanistan, Iran, terrorism, just to name a few.
On this point, how to deal with Russia, Europe and US must make all the efforts to find a common ground. Disagreement and disunity on issues of vital interest is a luxury that neither of us cannot afford in the ever more independent global environment we live in.