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Transatlantic security symposium 2013

02/12/2013, Rome

The porosity of borders, the availability of arms, the proliferation and mobility of radical Islamist groups: these are the key risks that make it important to control the trafficking of human beings and goods at borders.

This is what emerged from the Transatlantic Security Symposium, in its sixth edition this year. The meeting was organized by the Institute of International Affairs, in collaboration with the Compagnia di San Paolo, NATO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at its international conference hall. It focused on transatlantic security from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa and the role of the EU and the US in the region.

While the Symposium originally dealt with more functional issues (threats to transatlantic security such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation), it has recently adopted a more geographic approach, identifying some strategic regions: Europe, Russia, North Africa and the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and now the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

The debate was opened by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli, who welcomed suggestions on how to improve relations among Italy, Europe and Africa. In his opinion, the cooperative approach that the EU and the US should adopt in dealing with the African continent has to follow three ‘d’s: defence, diplomacy and development.

The Arab uprising which, according to the deputy minister, should be considered a process rather than a series of events, have brought attention back to the security threats on the African continent, in particular in the Sahel corridor, deeply exposed to trafficking in drugs and human beings, and terrorism.

Due to its geographic proximity and its colonial legacy in Africa, Europe is called upon to play a leading role, but a transatlantic approach, aimed at engaging the US in various fields, is essential.

During the debate, a number of research paper were presented and discussed. Of these, the paper by Riccardo Alcaro and Nicoletta Pirozzi, IAI senior researchers, analysed the strengths and weaknesses of the EU and US approaches to security in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

Alex Vines, Research Director at Chatham House, was also of the opinion that the EU does not have a single position at the moment towards instability in the region and the resulting immigration. At the same time, however, he emphasized that even those countries that seem to be most reluctant to intervene directly, like Germany, have notable commercial interests in the African continent and see immigration as a resource for their internal market.

The meeting was divided into three sessions and moderated by Emiliano Alessandri, programme officer at the OSCE in Vienna and IAI research consultant, and by Christopher Alden, reader at the London School of Economics.

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