Proceedings of the webinar “Italy: remote scenarios, close interests”

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On Wednesday, December 15, 2021, the webinar organised by Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues took place, focusing on the theme “Italy: remote scenarios, close interests“. The speakers were the President of the Observatory, Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, who moderated the meeting, the Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini, the President of Simest SpA, Pasquale Salzano, Marta Dassù, essayist, member of the Aspen Institute, Nicoletta Pirozzi, Head of Institutional Affairs IAI (Istituto Affari Internazionali), Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini, Magistrate, MAECI advisor, member of the Scientific Committee of Eurispes. The proceedings of the webinar are available online.

Follow the interventions of the speakers:

Italy: remote scenarios, close interests

GIAMPIERO MASSOLO, President of the Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues: Good evening everyone; I am Giampiero Massolo, President of Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues. I’m delighted to welcome such high-level participants, starting with the Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini, Marta Dassù, a very active figure in international relations and currently in charge of programmes at the Aspen Institute, Nicoletta Pirozzi, Head of Institutional Affairs IAI (Istituto Affari Internazionali), Pasquale Salzano, President of Simest SpA, and Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini, Magistrate, consultant to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and member of the Eurispes Observatory. Today’s topic is addressed to the Italian public, which does not always know how important it is for the national interest – and for our citizens – to know what is happening in areas sometimes far from the national borders. The aim of the Observatory of which is precisely to bring the interested public opinion closer to this kind of issue, but also always to underline what the Italian national interest is in individual foreign policy events in national relations; this is the reason why it has decided to dedicate this webinar to this topic. While thanking our participants, I would like to ask Marta Dassù to take the floor

MARTA DASSÙ, Essayist, member of the Aspen Institute: Thank you for this invitation and thanks to Eurispes for inviting us to explore this critical issue. First of all, I’d like to say that I’m not so sure that citizens are unaware that events, even distant ones, can have consequences on their destiny. I believe that, in general, after the famous theory of the “butterfly effect” (a remote and minor event can have, in a chain, global consequences) and, above all, after several decades of globalisation, with its effects on the western middle class, people are aware that it has become challenging to contain apparently distant events (think of the global consequences of the wet markets in Wuhan at the time of the pandemic). The first consideration is that nothing is remote anymore because the vanishing of distances is part of the world we live in today. The problem seems somewhat about managing the consequences, distinguishing between a security impact and an economic impact. However, the reality is that these two circumstances are very often overlapping, and the distinction between economics and geopolitics has become increasingly difficult. Concerning security and the definition of one’s interests, in Europe, there is still – I would say more in the public opinion than in the political class – a double inclination, a tendency which I would define as ‘third-force’ or neutralist, an inclination towards delegation. I take as an example a recent survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations that we will publish in the next issue of Aspenia: the results indicate that most Europeans state that, in a potential conflict between the United States and China, Europeans should remain neutral. The emerging conviction is that it is still possible to consider Europe as a sort of Great Switzerland, particularly given one of the central problems of geopolitics today, namely the extreme competition – to use Biden’s definition – between the United States and China. But, in the same survey, the Europeans also say that, in the event of an attack on Europe by a foreign power, it is the United States that must intervene and, therefore, it is assumed that, regardless of what we might decide and do on a crucial front for the United States (as would be the conflict with China), we would still have the guaranteed protection of the latter through NATO. This is one of the fundamental problems because in the face of today’s geopolitical tensions, this dual third-force and proxy-based tendency, as mentioned, is no longer sustainable. To talk about seemingly distant events that directly impact our national interests, I think it might be a good choice to discuss in greater depth the European responsibilities of the European Union itself and the leading European countries in the Indo-Pacific region. This territory is perceived as a somewhat distant theatre, but it is becoming the focal point of global geopolitical and economic balances that closely affect us. We have interests in freedom of navigation in the region. We are interested in the geopolitical tensions between Hong Kong and Taiwan, an area with much demographic development in the coming decades. Concerning our place in the Indo-Pacific region, the discussion still seems to be at an early stage. There are two possibilities: the first is that the Europeans, Italy included, believe that having a direct presence in this region is crucial and, in part, this is already the case (the European Union launched a strategy for the Indo-Pacific this year that remains quite vague but, all in all, is in place); however, further steps need to be taken (for example, some European countries – such as France, Germany, Great Britain – have decided to show the flag in the maritime field, have, in other words, decided to have a direct and recognisable presence in this area). For the time being, Italy has recognised the importance of this strategic theatre. Still, it has not yet decided to have a military presence of its own (we have participated in military missions but do not have a direct military presence). Political and diplomatic steps forward have, however, already been taken, such as the trilateral initiative with India and Japan and so forth. In addition, in this context, there is the second possibility, namely that of moving towards what could be described as a sort of geographical division of labour, in the sense that at a time when the United States sees this region as the pivot of the new military balance and of its commitment to contain China, Europe must take on more direct responsibility both in European defence and in its near external neighbours. Therefore, a working hypothesis that corresponds to Italy’s national interest is, after all, to concentrate “in and around Europe”, in the Mediterranean, in the Sahel, in Libya, in the Balkans, leaving aside what are too distant shores, but on the basis based implicit and clear division between Europe and the United States. In any case, it is a decisive front; it is a typical case; this theatre appears to be far away but is so relevant to our direct interests. It is also so for another reason, which I invite everyone to discuss: the theoretical possibility that the two major potential problems that exist in international security (Europe’s eastern front about Ukraine and, regarding the Pacific front, a possible crisis over Taiwan) could somehow arise simultaneously; in other words, that there is a joint interest on the part of Russia and China in moving the two fronts in a coordinated manner. This is the nightmare scenario for the United States, in particular, but particularly two fronts that would be difficult to sustain. In the economic field, it is more difficult to talk about distance: integration and interdependence are such that talking about distance is now unfounded. However, I would say that, while in the case of geopolitics, we actually have the problem of increasing our degree of participation in scenarios that seem distant, in the case of the economy, there is an attempt to reduce the risks linked to interdependence. Differently, all the major players in the international system (China, the United States, and Europe) are trying to carry out an operation of ” derisking ” interdependence, somehow finding a distance that no longer exists. This is for several reasons, the main being, first and foremost, the fragility of global value chains (we fully experienced it in the pandemic crisis). It is always important to keep in mind, also when reasoning on economic problems, that the interpenetration between geopolitics and economy is, by now, very close. Let me give you an example: we talk a lot about the New Green Deal as one of the two great levers of European economic recovery, but we must be aware that the European Green Deal requires a foreign and security policy because the possibility of adopting renewable technologies on a large scale is linked to controlling of rare lands and minerals, etc., which are fundamental for green transformation. Finally, a distinct discussion would concern global public goods, such as the environment, health, population movements. If we look, for example, at the public opinion survey that IAI regularly publishes on the preferences of Italians regarding their foreign policy leanings, migration comes first and, in second place, environmental risk; thus, there is a risk assessment that alludes to large international agreements on the management of public goods. The point is that there is a lack of confidence and conviction that these global agreements can work or that, looking at migration on a European level, there could be real solidarity between countries with different locations. Suppose this mistrust goes beyond a certain limit. In that case, it is clear that the citizen, in the end, believes in acting only on the last step, i.e. he believes he cannot think of anything else but a “final fix”, the famous wall towards migration phenomena is quite symbolic of this kind of perception. But we know very well that all this is an illusion because the idea that in an era like the current one, there can be a fully national solution of a sovereignist kind does not work. The only chance is to regain room for action as part of a European Union that works, but this implies that the individual Member States must fully assume their commitments and responsibilities and be clear about their priorities. I believe that regaining sovereignty or defending one’s primary interests depends on the European Union functioning properly. This obliges the individual components of this complex system to play their part fully. It also requires specific agreements between the various countries of the Union. The level of citizens’ commitment (according to the November poll carried out by the IAI) is once again on the rise, as long as it is clear that the European Union is not something apart, something that helps us in the absence of our specific capacity to act in our national interests. If the Union exists, the countries, particularly the larger countries, clearly understand the challenges and the instruments to defend it.

GIAMPIERO MASSOLO, President of the Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues: Thanks to Marta Dassù. The one described so far in this debate is a public opinion that may be less aware than one might think of what threatens the national interest or represents an opportunity for the national interest from distant shores. But it is also a public opinion that reacts almost inwardly, in a defensive way and a little sceptical, both on what Europe can do in this regard and what we as a country can do on our own. But, I would like to ask Pasquale Salzano how companies fit into this perspective? Because distant countries (as well as Europe) should be the natural habitat for companies, so rather than defensive scepticism, there should be, in some way, proactive participation and a forward-looking attitude. P. Salzano: Thank you Ambassador. I listened very carefully to what Marta Dassù said. The risks linked to interdependence, which you mentioned, are now the element that large companies and small and medium-sized ones face. As far as companies are concerned, globalisation seemed to have led to applying the ‘just in time theory, i.e. having goods in the warehouse only for the strictly necessary time, to use them immediately. Now there is a paradigm shift to ‘just in case’, i.e. companies have and stockpile goods because they might need them in a context of international value chains that are increasingly extended and increasingly difficult to manage. It is clear that, in this framework, we have to ask ourselves whether Italy’s interest is to create smaller, geopolitically protected areas (the enlarged European area, the enlarged Mediterranean area). This could be the simplest answer because it is clear that if we delimit the areas in a much more familiar geographical definition, the risk, understood in a broad sense, could be reduced. But, unfortunately, like Italy – our country will reach, by the end of the year, about 500 billion of exports that will drag our economy enormously – we cannot afford, for our economic conditions, as much as we are leaning towards foreign countries, to reduce our range of action. This justifies the title of today’s webinar, “Distant scenarios, close interests”, because for Italy and our companies, tiny and medium-sized ones, this is a very current reality. Even the green shift, which was mentioned earlier, is very much linked to geopolitics. As we move in that direction, the supply of all those materials needed for this green turnaround will enrich and allow an economic shift from our areas to other areas, China in particular, also because many African countries, whose mines are now controlled by China, are the ones from which the materials come from. The last element is “transformative finance”. The big players (CoP, export credit agencies) are now both strategic and geopolitical because directing finance and investment towards certain sectors rather than others is truly transformative. It is recent news that the world’s largest investment fund, the Norwegian Fund, has eliminated from its investment indices companies that do not fall within ESG parameters. All this will bring about a transformation, when unintentional, by self-determination of the companies; it will also bring about the effect of the indicators of international finance, which, therefore, we could call “transformative finance”. To answer the Ambassador’s question, Italian companies cannot fail to be present in all markets, we cannot allow ourselves a regionalisation of our economy, but this entails transformative needs, as well as support for the country-system as such, including the military, which is indispensable to defend our economic interests abroad.

GIAMPIERO MASSOLO, President of the Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues: Thank you. Companies, in a broad sense. Citizens, tending to be a little defensive and a little sceptical. In the middle of all this, the governments: in the end, it is up to them to define what is a national interest, there is ao standard definition, you need to combine different elements. Nicoletta Pirozzi, why is it so difficult in Italy to define the national interest?

NICOLETTA PIROZZI, Head of Institutional Affairs IAI (Istituto Affari Internazionali): Thank you Mr Ambassador and Eurispes, for the invitation. I would like to start with Marta Dassù speech and answer your question. I think that in Italy, there is a problem in defining the national interest coherently and then pursuing this interest in Europe and internationally with the whole country-system, even though the international political developments we have witnessed in recent years seem to be moving in a different direction. I think we had already realised – in dealing with threats such as climate change, international terrorism, migration – that there is a strong connection between external security, even in very distant scenarios, and internal security. With the pandemic, we have learned two fundamental lessons: first, that the interconnection, at a global level, means that there are no threats that are too distant to affect the well-being and security of our citizens and, at the same time, that these challenges require a coordinated response at the international level, including through regional integration processes, such as those provided by the European Union. Based on the assumption that in Europe, some minor states and states do not know they are small, it is necessary to articulate the national interest that this is done on an appropriate scale. In the Italian case, the correct scale is precisely the European one. F Many conditions must be fulfilled for the European Union to become a credible security instrument and actor globally. Also, the role that Italy will play will be fundamental. First of all, we must provide adequate capacity to intervene in scenarios both near and far. We have certainly made progress on the Defence side. The report by the European Defence Agency has just come out, and it shows that European states have increased their investments in this sector to EUR 198 billion, an increase of 5% over the previous year, despite the Covid-19. There have also been a series of projects carried out by the European states, especially about Defence, for instance, in the field of space or the construction of strategic assets such as drones (or other) that have seen the establishment of a leading group of which Italy is a member, along with France and Germany, of course. We know that the road to strategic autonomy is still very long, but, at the same time, we must not forget that the European Union is one of the few international actors that can mobilise a whole series of instruments, beyond the military ones, which can help it to be a leading player at the international level (from the diplomatic ones to the civil ones). I believe that this aspect of integrated security will have to be increasingly valued in order to to the cross-cutting challenges we face. But there is a further element: political will, without which capabilities are of little use. The European states, and Italy in particular, must be more aware of the need to start moving forward with clusters of Member States, wherever a consensus of 27 is not an option. Therefore, let’s create a smaller group, with those states that can and want to move forward that want to carry out ambitious projects in the defence sector and intervene with joint forces in crisis and conflict scenarios, hoping that the others will follow. We also need the support of the public. I want to pick up on what Marta Dassù was saying, in the sense that the Eurobarometer data from European citizens are always quite positive about the active role of the European Union in the area of Defence and Security (this was also confirmed by the results of the survey that we conducted at IAI regarding Italian citizens’ opinion). I also believe that the new Conference on the Future of Europe, which is currently underway, will provide us with new guidelines. Finally, we need to rethink Europe’s role at the global level. However, I do not believe that we should give up our efforts to support democracies and build functioning institutions at the regional and global levels. Europe must not surrender its values of freedom and democracy, the same values that distinguish it as a security actor at the international level. In contrast, I believe it is necessary to strengthen and reaffirm a “European way” to security and democracy that we have seen working, albeit with mixed results, in the eastern neighbourhood, in the Sahel, and that can also be applied to other contexts. Both Italy (in the European context) and Europe can play a leading role globally. Still, they must be able to define better their interests based on their own identity and pursue them more vigorously with both partners and strategic opponents at the international level. That will be the challenge of the near future.

GIAMPIERO MASSOLO, President of the Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues: Thank you, before handing the floor to the Minister, there is a further issue that I think could usefully be addressed in this context, and that is regulations. It’s often said that Europe is a regulatory power, and it’s said, just as often, that Italy is the cradle of law, so who else but Councillor Tartaglia Polcini could better address the subject of regulations? That is why I am asking him: how does the issue of rules fit into this complex and lawless landscape?

GIOVANNI TARTAGLIA POLCINI, Magistrate, MAECI advisor, member of the Scientific Committee of Eurispes: Thank you, Mr Ambassador, and good evening everyone.  Thank you for the opportunity to share the lines of action that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been declining in recent years and that we define as “legal diplomacy”. It is an action with benchmarks, from a geopolitical point of view, scenarios that may be far away and cultivate close and national interests. I refer, in particular, to a repositioning action of the Country on the global system, in sectors in which it has an undisputed leadership, as, for example, in the fight against mafias and the fight against corruption (in the last ten years) and the fight against recycling of illicit capital. This ‘legal diplomacy’ activity has two fundamental guidelines: the first is that of regulatory harmonisation, ensuring that there are minimum reference standards and, with our G20 presidency, this year we gave a strong push in this direction; the other guideline is that relating to the so-called technical assistance activity, capacity building, which we offer to countries, even distant ones. It is clear that, in the face of the globalisation of a criminal threat, to have a global, agreed response is, by now, a strategy, a necessity that can no longer be postponed, and Italy has a leading role in this sector. It is not a role that it attributes to itself, but it is also recognised by the requests for technical assistance that currently come daily from distant scenarios. What can this mean from the national interest point of view, regardless of what might be, let’s say, a strategic repositioning? How can it be made useful for the public’s awareness? First of all, we reverse the narrative about our Country. Because from being considered the cradle, not only of the Law but alas, also of the oldest and most powerful Mafias in the world, we are becoming, in the global scenario, the Country of the oldest and most potent anti-mafia player in the world and the same is accurate, in the last ten years, regarding prevention and fight against corruption. This reversal of narrative and storytelling has potential and even concrete and direct consequences on other sectors. First of all, cleaning up the country’s image in this sense can help attract investment much more than in the past. It is not only a matter of protecting the national interest and reputation but also the global Rule of Law. Indeed, some of our rules are reference standards that are not obsolete and cannot be forgotten. Therefore, by defending the national interest, we also share values. A final caveat on our technical assistance activities: our methodology, in the field of justice and security technical assistance, is considered a model for global reference. With the “missions decree”, in line with Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda, which calls for Peace and Justice, and it is no coincidence that this transversal goal sets out these two objectives together, we have obtained recognition of the quality of our technical assistance activities by the European Union, which finances all of our actions and creates programmes based on our four-phase methodology. 1) Capacity building: We can train (I can confirm this after five years) thousands of magistrates and police officers in faraway scenarios throughout the Latin American continent and the Caribbean region, and currently, in Africa. 2) Institution building: as well as training our interlocutors, we strengthen their institutions by sharing our models. 3) Law building: we build new laws; we have even promoted constitutional reforms in more than one country, including, for example, the crime of conspiracy to commit mafia-type offences in some penal codes. 4) Consensus building: in this context, we have a story that was dramatic at the beginning, exactly thirty years ago, but in the end, proved to be successful. And it is no coincidence that next year will be the 30th anniversary of the events of Capaci and Via d’Amelio in Palermo, which will place our Country further in a strong position as a leader in anti-mafia and anti-corruption on a global level.

GIAMPIERO MASSOLO, President of the Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues: Thank you very much, especially for that final point you raised. I think it is a sensitive subject to all of us who are fully aware I was the floor to the Minister for Defence.

LORENZO GUERINI, Italian Minister of Defence: Thank you, Ambassador Massolo, and thanks to the speakers who spoke before me; I think they have provided substantial food for thought in which to place the assessments more strictly related to the responsibilities of the Ministry of Defence, the strategies of the Ministry of Defence as it has emerged in recent years within a context that we must always be aware of and have knowledge about, of course anticipating what our working and intervention dynamics will be. I agree with the approach adopted by Marta Dassù in her speech at the beginning of our meeting; I agree with the view that the end of distance is a crucial element, and I also agree with the choices we are called upon to make in the field of Defence, protection and Security. I also share the view that there is a gap between the positions of European public opinion on the security impact of the global dynamics in which we are now involved and the responses of our public opinion. Public opinion never makes a clear break with parliaments and governments because their influence affects the responsibilities that security impacts imply. The research referred to already confirms past research, essential elements of the past. I remember that research on NATO  published two/three years ago: a specific situation emerged, i.e. in the European public opinion, with particular reference to segmentation on the Italian public opinion, for which: great trust in NATO and awareness of the importance of NATO for our security; after which, at the moment when this awareness had to be and must be, transformed into concrete actions to maintain it, to preserve it and pursue it, or into even more important actions in the case of a concrete threat from outside, public opinion believed that Italy had to be ideally committed to NATO, but was also convinced that the responsibility for action, for intervention, lay entirely with the United States. So, we can say that this element is present in our public opinion. Still, it is also up to us to take responsibility. When I say “us”, I mean the political class, the ruling class in the broadest sense, the institutions, governments and parliaments. It is up to us, as I was saying, to make sure that we understand what our contribution is in terms of responsibility for managing the safety impact of the context in which we operate. Indeed, from this point of view, we need to increase our awareness of the qualitative leap in European defence, which may not be fully understood by public opinion. Finally, the dramatic outcome in Afghanistan has undoubtedly been an accelerator from this point of view in terms of the perception of the importance of this objective and, after that, declining this perception, precisely, in public opinion and in the relationship with public opinion in what it means is a task that is required of us: of governments, of parliaments. As Mrs Pirozzi mentioned when she drew attention to European security, the European defence debate became essential. I keep on saying it in every interview, in every communication in the Commission, in every political meeting: we have to be aware of what it means to grow European defence and, how can I put it, to have another level of ambition for European Defence. From this point of view, the discussion on the Strategic Compass is undoubtedly the correct perspective in which we have to place our assessment. However, ‘European Defence’ means something much more complex and demanding; it means having a shared threat analysis. Moreover, it means having a common industrial and technological base, adequate capabilities, a plan, and a willingness to employ them. It means work, an ambitious political ambition and not by chance, engaging Europe in the current debate. Certainly, there are important elements: investment growth in the defence field. While listening to you talking, I felt I was being called into question: investment growth. In the field of Italian defence, I have tried to characterise my action with an awareness shared by the Armed Forces, also shared by Parliament, fortunately, on the need to recover the ‘capacity gap’ from which Italy was suffering, due to the issues related to ‘hypo funding’ in past years, due to the lack of funding sustainability, and the need to give financial projections to our industrial system, and so on. I am the subject, so to speak, of a recurrent campaign of legitimate criticism, which, from this point of view, is also very present in the newspapers and on social networks; I have also been called into question by Massolo, and then also by Mrs Pirozzi in her speech, precisely on the difficulty for Italy to be aware of and to have the courage to decline, in public opinion, the theme of national interest. Again, I have been the subject of a legitimate criticism over the last few days regarding the fact that, in identifying the national interest to be protected, at the basis of the choices of projecting the military instrument outside our borders, I have defined a series of objectives and interests – it is present in the Law and the mission statements, as Tartaglia Polcini, from this point of view, can be more precise than me and well informed. As I was saying, in the mission statements, apart from the efforts, there are also the missions’ objectives and the interests linked to them. If any of you have been updated in recent days, one of the issues raised in a very critical manner concerning the actions and missions that we have decided to carry out and also with the motivations in the definition of the interest of those missions, there was also the protection of the energy interests of the Country: this has become an element of criticism, precisely an element of legitimate distancing from the positions taken by us. Why am I mentioning this episode? Because I believe that here too, there must be a task on our part to undertake, with the right responsibility and courage, a reflection on the definition of the interests that we intend to protect, preserve and guarantee as we imagine the projection of our military instrument. If I look back at our past, it is much simpler to decline our projection of the military instrument on a multilateral perspective: peacekeeping operations are certainly relevant and important and much more complicated when we have to associate this projection with the protection of national security interests understood in a more extensive sense. This is one of the limitations we have had to face in recent years, but I believe that it must become one of the elements of our work that we must look at it with great commitment, great courage and great determination. For this reason, we have been increasingly thinking – and I will end with these last two points – of defining the projection of our military instrument (in the context of the operations and missions authorised by Parliament) within what we consider to be the strategic quadrant of our national interest: the area of the enlarged Mediterranean, where our action and commitment have been increasingly concentrated in the last few years. In that area, there is security linked to freedom and security of trade and navigation; there are energy interests to be protected; there are interests of presence concerning assertiveness or other players. And I believe that if you are looking for an Italian strategy, you will find it within this quadrant and these choices. As far as our presence in the Mediterranean is concerned, we are in the process of drawing up a defence strategy for the region, clearly not detached from an inter-ministerial vision, first and foremost with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to enhance our presence and to increase it where necessary, considering the centrality that the Mediterranean has today, the importance that the Mediterranean represents; with the presence of internal and external players; with the need to build around this presence the framework of our relations with the Mediterranean countries. Then there is the African issue, with particular reference to our security interests, which coincide with the European security interests. I am thinking about the triangle that stretches from Libya at the top to the Horn of Africa in the east and the Gulf of Guinea at the top in the west; I am thinking about Italy’s need and contribution to maritime safety and commercial interests security. The commitment to a coordinated European maritime presence in the Gulf of Guinea, the commitment in the Gulf of Aden and the projection into the Indian Ocean with Operation Atalanta, a new commitment in the Strait of Hormuz, and then I am thinking of the contexts, the regions, the crisis areas in which our commitment is growing: Iraq, Lebanon, the Western Balkans. With the Mediterranean in the middle, there is the centre of our activities and the projection of our military instrument. Secondly, participating in a vision, a commitment and new perspectives, or rather, let us say, in the European Union’s ambitions in the field of defence, without neglecting the review of the strategic concept of the Atlantic Alliance that is currently being defined. In my opinion, this raises the issue not of a dichotomy or an alternative but of those two points raised by Marta Dassù, which are linked to our Country. Still, above all to Europe and our country’s role within Europe, within the new context that is becoming decisive within the new systemic rivalries and the new global geopolitical condition of reference, namely the Indo-Pacific. If, on the one hand, there is the awareness or the will or the identification of an indispensable presence in the Indo-Pacific, and therefore of a strategy of the European Union in the Indo-Pacific better defined concerning some guidelines that have been identified today – in this sense, some operations of « show the flag » of some countries have been recalled -, what does Italy intend to do from this point of view? Or, the second branch of this potential dichotomy (which in my opinion, I repeat, is not a dichotomy): the assumption of the topic, I’ll put it there – and diplomats will forgive me for this not particularly flowery language – of the distribution of competences and tasks in geographical regions that can see a greater commitment of European defence within the framework of, let’s say, “its own neighbourhood” and the instability range that is present in our neighbourhood, leaving a global power like the United States with the responsibility of focusing on the Indo-Pacific. I think we have to do both. I believe that Europe today is called upon, and I am convinced that to confront the field of both Security and Defence, to play a bolder, more profiled, more systemic role in its neighbourhood. Africa is the place where the European Union, in my opinion, measures the level of its ambition in the field of defence and security, relying (I cannot remember who said this) on the Union’s instruments, which are instruments that combine the military and diplomatic dimensions, the economic and cooperation dimensions, and beyond. On the other hand, I think that Italy can imagine being present within unilateral formats also in the Indo-Pacific, knowing that this is a contribution of presence in the framework of the strategy for the Indo-Pacific and close relation with the American posture with the ongoing undeniable debate within NATO. We must consider that for Italy, this is a contribution of presence, solidarity and participation in a broader, more important effort of organisation and area of action of subjects of greater importance, stronger than us. Then we must focus more on contexts that are closest to us. I believe that if we consider our participation and the construction of our missions, our operations, the projection of our military instruments, but also our position within the European debate on European defence – and within is taking place on the strategic review of NATO – from this point of view, I think we can see how Italy is defending and promoting its national interests even in scenarios that are far away and peripheral to our territory, both in terms of direct or bilateral commitment and in terms of participation in the activities and actions of the organisation to which we belong.

GIAMPIERO MASSOLO, President of the Eurispes’ Observatory on International Issues: Thanks to the Minister, I must say that I was expecting to listen to this debate being – as always –  a little sceptical about the idea of this progressive adjustment of national awareness, about the importance for the national interest of what happens outside the borders of Italy, but I have gradually gained the conviction that understanding of this type of phenomenon is on the rise, and companies often act as promoters, as supporters of this awareness and public opinion too. In this respect, Covid has heightened the public’s attention that the resources that were once devoted to local purposes and very little to foreign purposes (for security, military, diplomatic issues, and so on) are gradually coming back in. Above all, the government’s ability to provide a synthesis is growing, without which no coherent policy can be drawn up. I am glad that this kind of positive, constructive approach is gaining ground in the speeches we have heard. In particular, the idea that we are aware that we cannot, as Europe, continue to delegate uncritically and without limits to the United States security, but instead we must also take it into our own hands; and, as a Country, that we cannot delegate indefinitely to Europe what we must first of all resolve at a national level. So the fact that this process has been reactivated, so to speak should be encouraging. I am very grateful to our participants, to the Minister, to Marta, to Nicoletta, to Pasquale, to Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini, also on behalf of the President of Eurispes Gian Maria Fara. Thank you for following us, and thank you all for participating.

 

 

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