Why a European Italy is necessary

, by Luisa Trumellini, Translated by Linda Abdelall

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

Why a European Italy is necessary

“The future of the European Union is in our hands: the European Union is the best tool to achieve our goals”.

It seems as if it were decades ago that this statement was made. The Italian government had strongly pursued and desired this declaration. Indeed, on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, 30 years after the end of the Cold War and the German reunification and 20 years from the birth of the euro, Italian decision-makers of the Gentiloni Government were using Italy’s political power in order to lead the country towards a renewal of the European Union, rendering it the political union which is necessary today.

Today, on the contrary, Italy is a thorn in the European Union’s side: with its insane political situation, the country is too big for it not to be a deadly threat. Like many pro-European German politicians believe, Italy is a founding country that is not contributing to a strengthening of the European Union. Without Italy, progress is not possible with regard to a more powerful European Union. On the contrary, Italy has become an alibi for conservative parties and fuel for nationalism. Considering the opportunity of developing the process of unification, we cannot do so without a political, federal union. Today’s Italy is very different from the one created by Spinelli and the federalist Europeans.

Thus, considering the threat that our country represents in Europe, we can understand the reactions of MEPs at Strasbourg on the 13th of February to Prime Minister Conte’s speech.

Many people criticised the frank speech of Guy Verhofstadt, always keen on having a provocative behaviour. He qualified the Prime Minister as “Di Maio and Salvini’s puppet”, expressing in this way what everybody thinks and what is reported daily in Italian newspapers. However, Verhofstadt’s speech overshadowed many other tough reactions: for instance, Manfred Weber’s attack was not only addressed to Mr. Conte, but also to the entire Italian government for its wrong political decisions and for its responsibilities in economic and political areas. Manfred Weber is the EPP Candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission.

Another example is the fact that the room was half empty because at least 75% of the parliamentarians expressed their disagreement, ignoring the session, as did Jean-Claude Juncker, the current European Commission President. However, the provocations expressed in Conte’s speech have not been highlighted enough in the news and in the comments. He criticised the European Union “composed by bureaucrats”, accusing without proof the European institutions and omitting the role of the Italian parties that constantly try to stop the measures that Conte was evoking in his speech. Furthermore, he talked about how the European Union would need to eliminate the power of the few and give people their voice back.

The truth is that our Prime Minister’s speech held at the European Parliament has been an occasion to highlight the opinion that the rest of Europe has about Italy in this moment.

Italy is completely alone in Europe and in international organisations, thus they only have a couple of equally isolated allies (except for the satisfied Trump and Putin who thank Italy for the help they received in their attempt to destroy the European Union). Italy is also regarded with contempt, which is understandable considering its behaviour. Italy’s allies cannot understand how a country with these capabilities could end up in such a complicated situation. It is a bit like the United Kingdom: nobody really understands how such a country could decide to ‘commit suicide’.

Too many observers and commentators in our country are blinded by their wounded national pride. The truth is that we are doing this ourselves, and the reactions of the others are only the consequences of the representation given by our government.

The “wounded national pride” methodology often works in other international and European contexts. A clear example is the Treaty of Aachen signed by France and Germany on the symbolic date of 22 January, to mark the anniversary of the similar Elysée Treaty signed by the two countries in 1963.

In Italy, many voices criticised what has been identified as a premeditated agreement to armour a French-German hegemony in the European Union. Giuseppe Conte himself, in an interview released by the Sole24ore newspaper, criticised the agreement saying that ‘it is a matter of coherence [... if we continue to evoke a strong European project but in reality there are Member States that reinforce their already privileged bilateral agreements, it is obvious that there is the risk of altering the normal decision-making process among all the Member States. We cannot allow the creation of a multi-speed Europe.’

The reality is really different. In order to still have a future, the European Union should have a decisive leadership based on two different levels of integration in the European Union. To do so, it has to be based on the French-German engine. Actually, the distance that grew since the summit that took place in Nice in 2000 contributed to ruining the development of this process. The two countries have to go a long way to build common ground.

The distance between the two countries is still huge, as was demonstrated by the German reaction to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals. He suggested creating a more united and better integrated Eurozone in the European Union in order to build a new European sovereignty based on global economic development. Today, France imagines a European Union as a political player with the power and democratic management of a federal entity. Germany is afraid of losing the current hybrid structure where politics and power remain a matter of the federal states and the integration has to be decided among the national governments, limiting in this way the effective role of the Commission.

The Aachen Treaty is therefore part of a pathway designed to fill in this gap and build the trust between the two countries after several years of political transformations. Moreover, it represents the willingness of France and Germany to be leaders of the idea of a more united European Union and solidarity among the countries, citizens and generations; a project of peace, freedom and democracy against the current nationalisms that are arising in these days.

The real problem is not the fact that France and Germany are acting with the intent to create a stronger European Union; vice versa, the problem is Italy which is acting like an obstacle and an enemy instead of contributing positively to this project. To reverse the spread of nationalism, the political battle of the next years should concentrate on creating a new structure, involving citizens and having the courage of going towards a leadership of political and social parties willing to work together.

The battle in the next European Parliament should be about creating a new united alliance of parties that, together with pro-European parties and pro-nationalist parties, desire a new negotiation on the treaties and want to build a federal European Union. The idea is creating a European Union that also includes those countries that just want the single market.

It is essential to clarify that it is not up to the Italian government to play a role in this project, but it is up to Italy itself, considered as a whole system. This is the real meaning of our battle for a European Italy. Sandro Gozi, the President of the Union of European Federalists elected at the UEF Congress in Vienna in November, is right when he uses his credibility and his political relationships in order to promote our political platform all over the European Union. This also explains that there is another Italy, the one that counts about 50% of the citizens.

As Italians, we have to support the other countries to continue this mission also in our name, in the name of the citizens who believe in the European Union and who want to live in Europe. We must not stop. Indeed, because of this government, our country will have to deal with the fact that it will be in the opposition faction in the battle for a federal European Union.

Our battle for a European Italy is based upon the fact that our country needs a federal European Union more than ever, and on the awareness that Italy is fundamental for the European Union itself.

The original Italian version of this text was first published on the L’Unità Europea publication.

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