A Statement by the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Matteo Renzi, on the European Council of October 2014

SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, XVII LEGISLATURE, 336th MEETING, 22 OCTOBER 2014.

On 22 October 2014, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Matteo Renzi, outlined before the Senate the position of Italy on the topics to be discussed at the European Council of 23-24 October 2014, i.e. the new climate and energy policy framework, the economic situation in the EU and other external relation issues in the light of the developments on the international scene.

As to the 2030 climate and energy package, the President said:

[…] we believe in the importance of identifying, now more than ever, sustainability and the environment as a choice for economic competitiveness and creation of new jobs. Hence, we suggest and propose to the Parliament to have the maximum possible ambitions on the 2030 climate and energy package and an ambitious and consistent EU position, in view of the next two appointments, i.e. the XX Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, of December 2014, in Lima, and the central and crucial meeting in Paris in December 2015. […]

Linked to this topic is the issue of energy efficiency, with regard to which we have expressed our availability to consider the 30% of the needs on an annual basis as the indicative target at EU level in the field of renewable energy and we have consented to increasing the mandatory quota to 27%. […]

We know that this issue is connected to major international geopolitical problems: no one can question the fact that most of the apprehension about geopolitical issues reaches the public opinion mediated by attitudes of concern, sometimes alarm or terror, concerning the energy needs of our and other countries and, more generally, about the ability of countries which are now experiencing situations of conflict to provide, also in times of international tension, the gas and the energy needed for heating and other daily needs. I would dare saying that this view is at the same time short-sighted and sterile, because we need something more. […] We believe that the future energy axis cannot be the East-West one only – I will devote a few words about international tensions – but should logically be based on criteria of diversification even in the North-South direction. […] If we think of a North-South strategy of energy development, implying investments in Africa as a producing country, but then we do not build interconnections, i.e. the pipelines between France and Spain, blocked by years of continental myopia, we will never be able, to a certain extent, to transport energy resources from Africa and, at the same time, we will never be credible to the eyes of European citizens. […] This is the reason why tomorrow, with the convinced support of the Parliament, Italy will have to assert itself about the need to quickly act on the interconnections that should be established, especially between France and Spain.

The President then turned to the issue of the relations between Russia and Ukraine, after the talks that took place in Milan. He said: 

It is obvious that the spotlight is now focused on Ukrainian elections of next week. I think I can recall what we have always said: Italy is convinced of the necessity to respect the unity, integrity and freedom of the Ukrainian people; Italy is convinced that it is necessary to put an end to the tensions that have occurred in the previous months; at the same time, Italy believes that a process of re-establishment of the role of Russia as an important reference point for the international community is now crucial for both Russia and the Ukrainian people, but also an absolute priority for Europe and for the international community, also in the light of the new conflict scenarios, since a strong Europe must be built on respect and dialogue. […]

As to the situation in Syria and Iraq, he said:

We have declared it very clearly and with great determination at the UN General Assembly. This is not a war against Islam, this is not a religion war, and it is not by chance that today the countries of the area, i.e. the countries that share the same religion, are out in front in the intervention, since they cannot accept, as Sheikh Mohammed said, that this religion is taken hostage. […] What led this Parliament, through its Commissions, to take effective and significant decisions is the desire of the international community not to witness carelessly and complicitly what is happening in Syria and Iraq. […]

The President then dealt with the issue of Ebola. He said:

The Brussels summit will deal with the topic of Ebola. It is an issue that the Parliament has already discussed and we will try to identify a single European supervisor. You are already aware of the commitments of the Italian government and also of the initiatives that we have taken, such as the participation in the 50 million financing from the international community, the availability to work with the British in Sierra Leone, the involvement of the Spallanzani [National Institute for Infectious Diseases] and, more in general, a strong cooperation with all international actors to oppose the spreading of this terrible plague in our continent.

As to economic issues, after recalling the proposal for a 300 billion euro investment plan to bolster growth and jobs under the Juncker Commission, he said:

In the last European Council the word “growth” has returned in the final discussion after a heated debate, particularly with the Netherlands and other countries that support strict austerity measures. I believe that we cannot keep on postponing a discussion on how Europe, and the Eurozone above all, wants to move beyond the narrow limits of austerity and set out a strategy [for growth], in which all European countries are now highly deficient. If you look at the figures of the world economic growth, you can see that this is not just an Italian problem, which is undeniable, but a problem of the whole euro area, which is, de facto, the Cinderella of world development. […]

As to the relations between Italy and the EU, he said:

Italy has stopped talking about structural reforms and has started doing them, also with a heated parliamentary and popular debate. Against this background, our representatives in Europe should be more aware of the non-otherness of Europe. We give Europe a lot more than what Europe gives to us. Each year we contribute 20 billion euro to the EU budget, and we spend just a bit more than a half, partly due to our faults, partly to the rules of the game. […]

[W]e should be aware that when we take part in the European Council, when we organise the European summits of the Ministers or when parliamentary delegations meet up, we are not on the watch list, and we should not look at Europe as a grim and stern teacher, who tells us what to do. We are a nation that needs to undergo a deep process of reflection on itself, and that is doing it because it has decided to do so, no matter what Europe thinks about that. […] I think we should stop seeing Europe as something different from us, because if it is true that we need Europe, I can tell you, since I take part in the European Council, that Europe has much need of Italy.

The full Italian version of the speech can be found at:

 http://www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/DF/307830.pdf

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