(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
Distinguished Professor Hempfer,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This city and this University symbolise the historical trajectory along which Europe has moved over the past sixty years. Berlin is an extraordinary capital of coexistence and democracy, and the Freie Universität stands as a traditional centre of freedom and justice. They both embody the values and ideals that have always inspired the European project. I am therefore particularly honoured to be able to speak, today, in this city and in this place.
I am also very happy to be able to inaugurate, by my presence here today, the new Academic Year at the Italienzentrum, which is enabling many German students to become well-versed in Italian language and culture.
In 2009 we are celebrating a number of landmarks in the history of Europe: the 60th anniversary of the end of the Berlin blockade; the 60th anniversary of the birth of the Atlantic Alliance, and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. From 1949 to 1989 and in 2009, Europe successfully overcame many critical challenges. It moved out of a climate of fear to experience a sense of hope. It passed through the period of integration and reconciliation to find itself faced with the bright and dark sides of globalisation.
Among the past and present challenges there is one which has always been of paramount importance for all of us: the security of our citizens. However, over the years the notion of security has radically changed. It has taken on a multifaceted profile and become a more difficult goal to attain. It is now something that no country can hope to achieve by acting alone or using only traditional instruments. Today, in order to feel secure, our citizens expect us to make an adequate response also to unconventional threats: the current financial and economic crisis, climate change, the risks of nuclear proliferation, and the energy issue.
The borderlines between personal, national and international security have become blurred. Defending our borders is no longer sufficient to shore up our security. As pointed out in the ‘Declaration on Alliance Security’ adopted by the last NATO Summit, distant threats must cause us the same concern as threats nearer to home. The more we grasp this reality and act accordingly as responsible stakeholders in the international community, the more secure we shall become, today and tomorrow.
Against this background, one of the most topical challenges that we have to face today is the stabilisation of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the whole region of which they are part. Italy saw the centrality and specificity of this issue long ago, and has placed it firmly on the agenda for its G8 Presidency. 2009 will be a crucial year for that region, for two reasons in particular: its strategic relevance among the foreign policy goals of the new American Administration; and the importance of the elections being held next August in Afghanistan.
On the basis of this awareness Italy has convened a G8 outreach session at foreign minister level in Trieste on 26 and 27 June 2009 dedicated to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our objective is to contribute to stabilising both the border between these two countries and the entire region. We will focus on some specific areas: border management, trafficking problems, free movement of persons, goods and capital. At the same time, we will concentrate our attention on economic and social development and people-to people-contacts, with the aim of stimulating trading capacity and entrepreneurial spirit in the region’s people. All Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan, Iran, China, India, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, will be invited to the Conference. Key players such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Australia will be fully involved in the event. Leading international organisations will also be part of the exercise.
In preparing the Trieste meeting, Italy has placed a special emphasis on two aspects: the regional dimension of the problem, considering Pakistan as important as Afghanistan; and the need to actively involve Iran in the process. These are two key points for which Italy’s policy has been ground-breaking. We are therefore delighted to see the broad international consensus that has now grown up around them, as shown by the American policy review, the Conferences in Moscow and The Hague, and the NATO Summit in Strasbourg-Kehl. Today, Afghanistan is no longer perceived as only Western or NATO business, but as an issue of vital relevance to the peace and development of every country in Central-Southern Asia.
Italy's commitment to Afghanistan is not only evidenced by the priority we have given to this issue within the framework of our G8 Presidency. We are making a major contribution to stabilising the country and the entire region at every level: security, institution-building, economic development, and cultural dialogue. More specifically, as part of the ISAF mission, we head the Regional Command West and have deployed a contingent which will be increased to over 3,000 troops at election time. As for civilian and economic aspects, Italy has allocated more than 436 million Euros to assist the Afghan institutions and population in reforming and strengthening justice, governance, health, infrastructure, women’s empowerment and the return of refugees.
Italy is also playing a leading role in training the Afghan security forces. In this field, we have built up a long and successful experience in Iraq. Thanks to the excellent performance of our Carabinieri we are offering recognised added-value in Afghanistan also, and welcome the agreement to set up a NATO Training Mission for the Afghan army and police forces. In order to sustain this decision, Italy is ready to more than double its current Carabinieri contingent over the coming months.
In our view, culture is another key factor in promoting any process of development and stabilization. Within the broader framework of the G8 meeting in Trieste, therefore, Italy will be hosting two major cultural events: an international Conference on this subject, and an exhibition on the Italian archaeological and anthropological missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Italian presence in the border area between those countries goes back for over a century. Archaeological and anthropological missions have been operating in the region since the early twentieth century. This is one of the reasons why Italy feels entitled to play a special role in the Af-Pak G8 initiative.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Afghan question constitutes a typical paradigm of the cross-cutting threats of the present age. Global and regional security are closely linked, and the stabilisation of that country embraces many dimensions of international relations. There are nine tests which this challenge is throwing down to us, and which we are being called upon to successfully address.
(1) A crisis management test. The American policy review marked a turning point for the international community’s commitment in Afghanistan. We now have clearer goals and priorities. In addition to the regional dimension, two more key concepts have come to the fore: a comprehensive approach, and ownership. Although security is the first step, the solution to the Afghan question cannot be a military one. The international community must increasingly target the civilian aspects of the crisis, and multiply its efforts at institution–building and economic recovery. The Afghan authorities and people also need to be encouraged to assume greater responsibility and to take charge of their own future. In this respect, Italy and Germany fully agree that only an orderly and democratic running of the forthcoming elections will ensure the legitimacy of the new President and constitute a credible moment of transition for the country.
(2) A test for ‘sustainable stability’. In order to make stability sustainable in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we cannot fail to tackle two issues: human rights and reconciliation. As I invoke the memory of Sitara Achkazai, the human rights activist recently murdered in Kandahar, allow me to be crystal clear about the first point: like Germany, Italy is deeply convinced, that there is no room for compromise on this matter. We would refuse to assist a country whose government is incapable of safeguarding fundamental human rights. Kabul must ensure that the legislation recently enacted by the Afghan Parliament that violates the basic rights of women is rewritten to reflect the principles of freedom and dignity for women. As for the second point, it is important for the Afghan government to offer an honourable form of reconciliation and reintegration to those insurgents who are seriously willing to break with Al Qaida and reject violence. But we have to be prudent: there are some red lines that must not be crossed. In this sense, Pakistan’s decision to accept the imposition of Shariah law in the Swat Valley is cause for deep concern.
(3) A test for combating terrorism. 11 September 2001 is now a fading memory and we sometimes forget the main reason why our soldiers are in Afghanistan. It is there that we are engaged in fighting the most important battle against Al Qaida terrorism. It is there that we are defending our citizens and the principles of our democracies. Italy and Germany are in full agreement on the priority to be given to combating terrorism. At the La Maddalena G8 Summit an ad hoc Declaration on this will be adopted. The focus will be placed above all on combating radicalisation and recruitment, and on the need to reconcile the effective use of instruments for combating international terrorism with the necessary respect for human rights and international law.
(4) A test for the credibility of NATO. In Afghanistan the credibility of the Atlantic Alliance is at stake. On the one hand, we cannot allow that country once again to become a base of operations for international terrorism. And on the other, this challenge is a litmus test of the new ‘out of area’ operations for which NATO has to show its ability to move beyond its traditional defensive and territorial character. The recent Strasbourg-Kehl Summit confirmed NATO’s long-term commitment in Afghanistan. Italy and Germany are fully engaged in the ISAF mission. We have responsibility for two similar and neighbouring regions: West and North. Our military contingents are cooperating productively on the ground and must continue to work together to make that operation a success.
(5) A test for the stabilisation of Pakistan. It has now become evident that Afghanistan and Pakistan are two facets of the same problem. It will be difficult to stabilise Kabul without cooperation from Islamabad. It will also be impossible to guarantee security in Afghanistan without stabilising Pakistan, which is now increasingly being targeted by terrorists and subjected to buffeting by destabilising forces in economic and financial terms also. Afghanistan and Pakistan need each other. Together they will stand or fall. The United States and Europe must therefore offer robust political, economic and financial support not only to Kabul but also to Islamabad. The Friends of Pakistan Ministerial Meeting and the Donors Conference in Tokyo on 17 April marked an important step forwards in this respect. Italy and Germany can work together to develop a more ambitious and complex European Union strategy for Pakistan. First, we have to encourage the Czech Presidency to convene as early as June an EU-Pakistan Summit. Second, we need to strengthen commercial ties between the European Union and Islamabad, looking forward to finalising a free trade agreement.
(6) A test for a constructive involvement of Iran. Afghanistan is holding out a major opportunity for Iran to demonstrate its will to engage constructively with the international community. Teheran’s participation at the Moscow and The Hague Conferences opened up a significant glimmer of hope in this respect, which must nevertheless be verified at the Trieste meeting. As mentioned, Italy was the first to underline the positive added-value Iran can offer, above all in controlling the border with Afghanistan, combating drug trafficking, exchanging intelligence and managing refugee flows. But the involvement of Teheran in this regard will remain a separate exercise from the nuclear issue. And it cannot be interpreted as a sign of acquiescence towards certain Iranian positions on the Middle East, particularly with regard to Hamas and Hezbollah. Consistently with the recent proposal for dialogue made by President Obama, Italy and Germany can work together to encourage Teheran to give a positive response to the overtures being made by the international community. We expect Iran to conduct itself as a responsible regional player and seize this opportunity.
(7) A test for the global role of the European Union. The EU and its member states must demonstrate a capability to ‘produce security’, and to be able to do so even in such a complex environment. Afghanistan is an international ‘matriculation test’ for the European Union, that needs to take up this challenge by focusing on the areas in which it can offer tangible added-value: governance and the rule of law. Italy and Germany must work together to keep the flag of the Union aloft in Afghanistan. In order to achieve this goal we must give priority to three fronts: (a) upgrading the EUPOL mission, complying with the EU's commitment to redouble its manpower; (b) providing support for the forthcoming Afghan elections, by deploying an Election Observation Mission; (c) providing financial assistance for stabilisation and reconstruction, particularly in the fields of health care and agriculture, and ensuring that the funds are properly spent.
(8) A test for NATO-Russia relations. Against the background of the new climate of dialogue between the Obama Administration and Russia, Afghanistan is one of the most promising areas for possible cooperation between NATO and Moscow, also for the purpose of re-launching the role of the NATO-Russia Council. Until now, cooperation over Afghanistan has been limited, but Moscow has an evident interest in stabilising that country and the whole region, exposed as it is to infiltration by Islamist extremists through Central Asia, and because it has to address the serious problem of heroin trafficking, which is fuelling the scourge of drug addiction among its people. Italy and Germany both share the same outreaching and constructive approach to Russia, and can work together to foster more positive and tangible cooperation between the Atlantic Alliance and Moscow on Afghanistan.
(9) A test for Transatlantic relations. The new strategy being fielded by President Obama for Afghanistan takes up many of Europe's demands. Washington has displayed its readiness to listen to and involve its European Allies. Evidence of this is the constitution, under Ambassador Holbrooke’s leadership, of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Support Group. In exchange, the United States is requesting increases in troop levels but above all an improvement in the quality of training for the army and the police, financial resources, and development cooperation. All the conditions are now in place for Europe and the United States to develop a truly compact approach to Afghanistan. Italy and Germany, drawing on their historical credentials in this regard, must work together to foster productive cooperation by both sides of the Atlantic over Afghanistan but also – more generally – to draw up a new Transatlantic agenda placing greater emphasis on all the new global challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to conclude by returning to the regional dimension of the Afghan challenge, but looking at it – this time – from a medium-and long-term perspective. With this approach, two things immediately spring to mind.
First, Central-Southern Asia is a region which does not have its own integrated security framework. No regional organisation exists that involves all the key players in that area. But we know that any long-term solution to its stability can only be achieved through a regional confidence-building process which must include all the major stakeholders, in addition to Afghanistan. Can we begin thinking in terms of structuring a political, regional security framework of this kind? Is it premature? Is it feasible?
Second, the region has an extraordinary potential that is still to be exploited in terms of economic integration, trade, agriculture, energy and infrastructure. At present, the mutual mistrust between the countries of the region is still impeding fruitful cooperation in many sectors. But for the future it is critical to reverse this situation. We need to foster the development of a regional market free of crime, corruption, drug production, and food insecurity. The region needs an effective commercial and infrastructure network, with the construction of gas pipelines and roads for transit traffic to the seaports of Pakistan and India.
In the process of addressing these two items some ideas have already been aired, and require further consideration. However, the positive experience we have already accumulated as Europeans could be carefully tailored to fit, in the future, the specific reality of Central-Southern Asia. Think, for instance, to the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, with its goal to foster effective regional cooperation and good neighbour relations; to specific aspects of the European economic integration process, with particular regard to cross-border cooperation; to the ‘CSCE process’, which marked a breakthrough in East-West relations and established a permanent dialogue on security matters.
Although, as mentioned earlier, these ideas need further analysis and development, one point seems to be sufficiently clear already: in the medium term the region must take security, political and economic responsibility for its own future. Any exit strategy that envisages the international community’s gradual disengagement from Afghanistan must be based on this essential precondition.
In reflecting on the future of the area, Italy attaches great importance to the ideas which could be elaborated by civil society: universities, think tanks and experts, including those in the region itself. For this reason, and specifically to provide food for thought looking ahead to the Trieste G8 Conference, Italy is staging an international brainstorming seminar in Rome on 28-29 May. We are certain that Germany and, hopefully, the Freie Universität as a leading research institution, will be able to make a major contribution to the debate.
Thank you very much.