2011 was a pretty bad year for Italian foreign policy: in the second edition of the European Foreign Policy Scorecard, we identified Italy as a "leader" on only 7 components of European foreign policy (less than Sweden or Poland) and as a "slacker" on 6 (less only that Cyprus and Greece). But, despite that, several of the speakers at the Scorecard event we held yesterday evening at the Polish embassy in Rome were surprisingly upbeat. In fact, they suggested, the way Italy had turned things around after such a bad year should give all of Europe hope.
Lapo Pistelli, the Democratic Party's head of International Relations (who was standing in for Massimo D'Alema, who had to cancel at the last minute) said he was worried by Europe's apparent loss of soft power ("the soul of what we can sell to the world") and the renationalisation of European foreign policy that we identified in the Scorecard. But he said the ups and downs of Italian politics showed how quickly and dramatically things could change. Three or four months ago, when Silvio Berlusconi was still prime minister, he said, "we were in hell". Now, on the other hand, you could see the new Italian prime minister Mario Monti being described in Time magazine as the man who could save Europe. "2012 can be the year we regain momentum", he said.
The Polish ambassador, Wojciech Ponikiewski, shared Pistelli's concern about the renationalisation of European foreign policy. The euro crisis had led to an alarming "new dynamic" among member states. He quoted Alek Smolar (incidentally a member of the Scorecard Steering Group), who had recently suggested that in the second half of last year trust had appeared to break down within the EU. But, he said, it remained to be seen whether this new dynamic would continue. The apparent return of intergovermentalism in response to the euro crisis could be a phase that might soon come to an end.
Marta Dassù, Undersecretary of State at the Italian foreign ministry (who had already participated in a Scorecard event in Washington last month), was also optimistic. She defended the way Europe had focused on the euro crisis rather than foreign-policy issues during the last two years. The biggest contribution Europe could make to the stability of the international system was to overcome the crisis, which she said she thought Europe was doing. If Europe succeeded, it might not necessarily lose soft power as it currently seemed to be. In fact, just as Italy had regained credibility in Europe in the last few months, so could Europe as a whole regain credibility in the world. She also pointed out that, with the fiscal compact and the accession of Croatia, both deepening and widening are continuing despite the crisis. "The story goes on", she said.
26th November 2012 at 11:11am
Does the fact that it’s familiar help them on the field?
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