The successful endorsement of an anti-spread shield at the most recent European Council summit last week has been judged as a triumph for Italian PM, Mario Monti, not only by Italian political commentators but by the international press as well. At a subsequent German-Italian summit on the 4th July, Monti was able to build on this victory by reestablishing a community of interests with Chancellor Angela Merkel, ensuring that Rome and Berlin will continue to work together on the road to integration, growth and economic discipline.
It was this significant political achievement which provided the backdrop to the IAI-sponsored launch of Dal colle più alto. Al Quirinale con Ciampi negli anni in cui tutto cambiò, (From the Highest Hill. At the Quirinale with Ciampi at a time when everything changed), the latest publication of Antonio Puri Purini, former diplomatic adviser to the ex-President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Published by Il Saggiatore, Puri Purini's work provides us with a critical analysis of Italian foreign policy since the 1990s, focusing especially on attitudes to European integration and the relationship between Italy and Germany. Following his experience at the Quirinal (the Office of the President of the Republic), Puri Purini was the ambassador to Germany.
The book, as the author is sure to emphasise, is based primarily on his memories and personal experiences. “My aim was to tell a story without pushing my own agenda. I didn’t want to tell “the one and only” point of view, but just my own experience, an account of a close collaborator with the President of the Italian Republic that paid attention to the European question”, Puri Purini stated.
Praised by Massimo Franco, political correspondent for Corriere della Sera, as having been written “with a passion and frankness one would not expect from a diplomat,” the book describes the Ambassador’s experience at the Quirinale under Ciampi, a President who bore witness to an eventful but also extremely tense period in Italian political history, which included the birth of the Euro and the controversial European Constitution project, as well as 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, all of which had a significant impact not only on internal European relations, but also on the EU's relationship with the United States and the Arab World.
Minister of International Cooperation and Integration, Andrea Riccardi, described President Ciampi as a loyal servant to the Italian State who always argued in favour of a European-oriented Italy, even at times when the Government and its supporting factions were attempting to redirect policy towards a narrow-minded and short-sighted nationalist perspective. Rocco Cangelosi, Italian representative to the EU and former diplomatic advisor to current President Giorgio Napolitano, urged that now, more than ever, Italy must adhere to Ciampi’s vision of a “deep Europeanism” which lies at the heart of Italy's relationship with Germany, an association of the utmost importance to the former President. Senator Lamberto Dini added that this close relationship between Rome and Berlin is also due to the efforts of Puri Purini himself while he worked at the Quirinal, an assertion stressed by Senator Francesco Rutelli, who also insisted on continuing cooperation between Italy and Germany, describing any disagreements that may arise among the two countries as “totally useless”.
It fell on Ambassador Puri Purini to make the closing remarks. The Ambassador highlighted the improved relations between Rome and Berlin under Romano Prodi’s presidency of the European Commission and he urged its continuation into the future: “We need to count on Angela Merkel’s determination: she is an honest and clear person”, he said. Indeed, as the Partito Democratico's deputy national secretary Enrico Letta said, Italy is stronger when it avoids stopping short at national interest and can instead fully embrace a European perspective as well.