National debate on a Common European Foreign and Defence Policy

09/11/2013, Turin

On November 9, Turin hosted the second national debate of Politically EU, an initiative promoted by the Representation of the European Commission in Italy and aimed to support a full and active citizens’ participation on key issues regarding the European Union’s (EU) future. This event – organized with the scientific support of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and in collaboration with the Centro Studi sul Federalismo (CSF) and the Universities of Turin, Trento and Catania – focused on the European Foreign and Defense Policy and its potential advancements, which will be discussed during the forthcoming European Council of 19th and 20th December. IAI produced a background paper in occasion of this meeting, part of the IAI seminar series "Verso le elezioni europee 2014".

After a video message by the Mayor of Turin Piero Fassino, Lucio Battistotti, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Italy, and Roberto Palea, President of the CSF, intervened with their introductory speeches.

Roberto Palea particularly stressed the advantages, both economic and organizational, linked to the creation of a common European defense, observing at the same time how a deep reform of the Treaties – possibly with a limitation of the use of unanimity in the decision-making process – would constitute an essential step to achieve this goal.

Alberto Simoni, Journalist at La Stampa, moderated the first session, in which Marta Dassù, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Roberta Pinotti, Secretary of State for Defense, also intervened. According to Marta Dassù, a foreign policy without a properly structured defense sector will continue to suffer from a lack of credibility, both regionally and globally. However, Roberta Pinotti warned that the importance of military resources is not be easily and immediately understood by the public opinion, especially in Italy.

The following debate was held in the framework of a deliberative workshop, chaired by Ambassador Nelli Feroci, President of the IAI. Academics, journalists, politicians, students and representatives of the defense sector were asked to share their opinions and offer comments on the issues raised in the background paper prepared by the IAI and the introductory interventions. The most significant contributions emerged from the discussion, as clarified by Lucio Battistotti, will be reworked into concrete proposals and circulated among the political advisors of the President of the European Commission in view of the forthcoming European Council.

Three key issues have been presented as essential to the development of a European defense:
- First of all, Giovanni Soccodato, Executive Vice President of Finmeccanica, has spoken about the common European defense industry as a driver of growth. However, the rising costs and the general loss of competitiveness of the European companies still compromise its development. A tricky situation, as defined by Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, also conditioned by the exclusion of this sector from the rules of the single market, which implies different approaches in the development of military capabilities by the Member States and a persistent prevalence of national interests.
- Secondly, the attention has been placed on the European Union’s external action with a special focus on the Mediterranean. Giovanni Brauzzi, Deputy Director General for Security, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussed the need for rethinking and strengthening EU’s neighborhood policy, also suggesting the use of new forms of association and cooperation as an alternative to further enlargement, which is considered unrealistic.
- Finally, MEP Susy De Martini, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and of the Delegation for the Relations with the United States of the European Parliament (EP), has discussed the EP role in the definition of European foreign policy, which is too often ignored by media and national politicians. An increased cooperation between national Parliaments and the EP can offer not only a greater visibility to the initiatives of the EP in domestic debates, but can also contribute to strengthen democratic legitimacy of the Union’s external action through a more conscious control entrusted to the national Parliaments.

At the end of the debate, Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission, drew his conclusions, stating that a common market in the European defense area would bring benefits also in areas beyond the military sector. In fact, this process of rationalization would not only not hamper the existence and the identity of the national armed forces, but rather favour the creation of a true Common Foreign Defense Policy that would be fundamental to strengthen the role of a global Europe whose intention is to move towards a greater federal integration.

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