A Statement by the President of the Council of Ministers on the Upcoming Italian Presidency of the EU Council

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 251st MEETING, 24 JUNE 2014.

On 24 June 2014, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Matteo Renzi, delivered a speech before the Chamber of Deputies on the upcoming Italian Presidency of the EU Council. In his speech, Mr. Renzi focused on some aspects of the role of Italy in the framework of the new European semester and gave a hint of the position of Italy on certain topics such as the appointment of the President of the Commission, the management of migratory flows and the situation of the European economy.

As to the appointment of the new President of the Commission, he said:

We cannot conceive that the discussion on the appointment is a mere acknowledgment of what happened in the elections or, conversely, an attempt to pretend that the passage in which the European political parties have submitted their candidates has not taken place. I’m not looking for a third way. I’m saying that those who affirm that since elections have taken place and the European People’s Party has obtained more parliamentary seats than the others, the candidate of that party has to be the President of the European Commission, are neglecting the significance of European elections […]

The European vote – I hope we will have the opportunity to discuss it on Thursday night – is a vote that should make us think much more than the appointment of the President of the Commission. Forgive me for being so hasty, almost violent in the way I say it, but those who believe that the gap of democracy in Europe can be filled by simply appointing Juncker or someone else as the President of the Commission live on Mars.

What happened in these European elections is much more important and serious than what we can imagine. A whole piece – I repeat, a whole piece – of the European civil community did not vote. It happened that those who voted have expressed a deeply hostile vote, not only to the European idea, but also to the way in which this idea has been concretized in the recent years, struggling against an economic policy that has seen Europe losing positions in the world ranking […]

The discussion of Thursday evening on the candidates must be build on these considerations. It must start from the fact that the wound created in European institutions can be filled only through politics and that a technocratic “copy and paste” will not suffice to solve the problems that Europe is currently facing […]

With regard to the first topic of discussion on the European Council agenda, i.e. immigration, he said:

A Europe which explains us in details how to caught tuna or swordfish or which prohibits Calabrian fishermen to employ certain fishing techniques, but then, when there are corpses in the sea, turns the head on the other side, is not a Europe worthy to be called civilized […]

We have already said that, it is not enough to have a common currency, a common President, a common source of funding: either we accept the idea of ​​sharing a common destiny and common values or not only Italy will lose its role in Europe, but Europe will lose ist role in front of itself.

If, in the light of what has happened in Europe during these months, we are told “this problem does not concern us”, well, keep your currency and leave us our values. The respect that we owe to a mother who gives birth to her son and dies after six hours with him cannot be a sudden emotion, that persuades the Commission and the Government to visit an island, but then the Government is left alone to address this issue. If this is the approach, it must be clear that Italy claims its values ​​and asks, starting from the summit of Friday morning, for the Mare Nostrum operation to be inserted in the framework of Frontex – or better Frontex plus, as defined by the European Commission – and requires the willingness to go and intervene where actions are to be taken.

96 per cent of the people landing on our territory come from Libya. And, you know – you do not need me to list all the currently open issues – the role of the UN in Lybia is of a fundamental importance. After the election, Lybia will formally request the intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Europe must have the strength to manage the situation on the basis of a common approach, in the light of the fact that not just the East, but also the Mediterranean is one of its borders.

Actually, to me the Mediterranean is more the heart than simply a border and, from this point of view, I say, with great determination, that if we are to be very strict with smugglers […] and criminal organizations that must be dismantled […] we will need an internationalization of the humanitarian intervention and a very strong investment in Frontex […]

As to the second point on the agenda, the situation of the European economy, also in the light of the recommendations addressed to Italy by the Commission, he said:

We are very grateful to the Commission for the recommendations addressed to Member States, especially in this time when, finally, it is up to the Member states to give some recommendations to the upcoming Commission and explain to it that the path we conceive is a path in which compliance with the rules is not questionable […]

Let me clarify this point: there are prophets of rigor and austerity that tell us today that it is absolutely impossible to change a single comma of the rules of the game… I want to quietly remind those prophets of austere and technocratic rigor that the last time Italy led the six-month EU Presidency – it was in 2003 – two countries, Germany and France, asked to exceed 3 percent, and were authorized to do so. We can discuss about the reforms put in place by Germany and France; I say, as an external observer, that the extraordinary season of reforms inaugurated by Schröder in Germany allowed Germany to deal with the crisis, today, in a much stronger way than everyone else […]

The element of diversity is that, unlike Germany, we do not ask to violate the rule of 3 per cent. However, we want, like Germany in those days, to stop seeing the list of recommendations as a shopping list that every time happens between the head and neck and that seems to be a sort of to do list that turns Europe into a boring old aunt who explains the tasks to be done, that we can simply try to list and perform from time to time the best we can […]

We will present a country capable of designing that path of reforms that others – I’m referring to Germany – have being doing since 2003. Does this requires a change of economic rules in Europe? No, but […] we can not continue to live in the Kafkaesque logic according to which Europe is an institution that initiates the infringement procedure because you have not paid your debts to businesses… and at the same time prevents you from settling those debts through the Stability Pact […]

Those who say that who speaks of growth violates the Treaty makes me laugh: who violates the Treaty is who speaks only of the Stability Pact. The Treaty requires us to look to stability and growth as elements that go together: there is no possible stability if there is no growth in Europe and in recent years the economic policies have failed due to this. It has been envisioned to make out of Europe only a Europe of stability. Stability without growth becomes immobility. We are not violating the rules. When we ask to address the issues of unemployment and economic growth we are referring to the rules […]

I believe that in these years we have entrusted a coin the task of building Europe, and this was done without any attention to the critical value of economic and financial policies in the construction of the integration process. This is not enough. Having a single currency does not suffice to share a common destiny […]. We respect the rules, and we ask that everyone respects the rules, but at the same time we need to say that either Europe changes its direction or there will be no room for development and growth, since without the decrease in the number of unemployed people, without the ability to go back to creating wealth, there will be no stability […]

The full Italian version of the speech can be found at: http://www.camera.it/leg17/410?idSeduta=0251&tipo=stenografico#sed0251.stenografico.tit00040.sub00010.int00020

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