Palazzo del Quirinale 20/12/2010

Address by the President Napolitano on the presentation of diplomatic corps' new year's wishes

Your Excellency the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you, Dean, and in my turn extend to the entire Diplomatic Corps the much appreciated New Year's wishes which you were so kind as to express for Italy and for my person. Your words represent a kind of "goodwill appeal" to the entire international community in the wake of the Pontiff's far-sighted message marking World Day of Peace on 1 January. I am convinced that the Holy See's elevated vision is appreciated in all of its true worth by all those present here. I can assure you that it is strongly echoed in the principles and values pursued by Italy in the international sphere including, in particular, that of religious freedom as an important condition for peace and stability.

The illusion has long vanished that with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War the world was headed towards "the end of history" and that the start of a new Millennium would bring a future of painless coexistence untroubled by conflicts. Many new and grave tensions have emerged. The year about to close has been no exception. We would have liked to have met today to celebrate a more cloudless horizon. But legitimate preoccupations with the complex international situation should not lead us to fatalistic pessimism.

The balance of the first decade of the XXIst Century is positive in terms of the enormous economic, civil and political progress made in whole areas of the world. It is something we should not forget before indulging in a schematic view of globalization as something producing few winners and many losers. In the interdependent world we live in - more so today than ten years ago - exactly the opposite has happened. There is only one explanation: co-responsibility and increased international solidarity. That is the spirit, founded not in any utopia but in realism, which has allowed us to resolve difficult economic situations, to face unexpected challenges- and to make progress. Despite the most recent difficulties this is certainly not the time to abandon the way of dialogue, cooperation and integration. In that connection I am firmly convinced that negotiation is the way to follow in order to resolve the renewed tensions in the Korean peninsula in the full respect of the United Nations' resolutions.

Your Excellencies,
In a changing world Italy has never shirked and does not shirk a role of major and traditional international responsibilities including in multilateral fora, starting with the United Nations; in Europe; in the Atlantic community; in the Mediterranean; in relations with the traditional protagonists of international politics and, increasingly, with the great emerging nations; and in our traditional ties of friendship with countries both near and far which you well represent.

I have noted your expressions of friendship and respect towards Italy, and saw they were always strongly renewed during my trips abroad this year to Brussels, Syria, Washington, Malta, Paris, Porto, in China and Vienna, and during visits to the European Institutions and the Atlantic Council. I consider them to be above all an acknowledgement of Italy's active and tenacious efforts on behalf of peace and international stability. A contribution of this kind is not made light-heartedly. Today some eight thousand Italian soldiers are involved in 22 stabilization missions authorized by the United Nations in twenty separate geographical theatres. Of these, a full four thousand, both men and women, are taking part in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan which sees the participation of many other contingents from the countries which you represent. The dimension of security is attained through the strengthening of institutions, economic growth and the defence of human rights.

That commitment - and I would stress this point - in one made by the nation as a whole. It transcends a harsh and divisive internal political debate. Italy's international position is widely shared as made clear by parliamentary votes among other things. I am sure that you are well-informed observers of such affairs.

I am also certain that you are well aware of the fundamental strategic lines of Italian foreign policy: the realistic conviction of the need - important today more than ever - of advancing and widening the path towards European integration; membership of the Atlantic Alliance which has guaranteed us more than sixty years of security based on common values and which culminated in the innovative Lisbon Summit; belief in multilateralism; the close web of friendship woven with the Balkans and the countries of the Mediterranean basin; constant stimulus for and support of the Middle East peace process; openness to new players of international importance in Asia, Latin America and Africa with whom to share global governance; commitment to the fight against terrorism, which continues to claim innocent lives, most recently with the massacre of lay and religious people in Baghdad and Iranian Baluchistan; the determination to tackle - together with all of your countries - the global challenges including the response to climate change and reconciling energy consumption and respect for the environment; a humanitarian tradition of mitigating the suffering caused by catastrophes - and among the many that have taken place I cannot forget the tragedy of Haiti - and in supporting reconstruction.

I would do an injustice to your professional competence if I continued to dwell of the broad lines of Italian foreign policy. I prefer to share with you a few reflections prompted by the events which we have witnessed during the past twelve months.
The undoubted difficulties which many countries are experiencing in achieving economic recovery and managing their public accounts should not allow us to lose sight of the overall situation nor to undervalue the timely and globally positive reaction to the crisis which broke out in 2008. That does not involve adopting a triumphalist view nor, however, giving in to uncritical pessimism. Rather, it means closing ranks in the governance of global interdependence and continuing the efforts which allowed us to overcome the immediate emergency phase. It also means not shirking the kind of innovation needed to adapt international cooperation and economic and financial institutions to a globalized, multipolar world.

The world economy grew by some five percent during 2010. But that good overall performance should not make us forget the need to keep the many obvious imbalances in check. Their management requires us to ensure the multilateral framework remains open or risk new instability and tension which would end up by compromising recovery - for everyone. This is not the time to be seeking salvation on one's own. Any benefits of unilateral, national or regional policies would be short-lived.

During an economic crisis in an interdependent world countries reemerge together or risk going under.
Solutions are needed that reflect the interests of the international community as a whole. France's joint presidency of the G8 and G20, to which I extend my warm wishes of success, represents an opportunity to be seized, and not only so as to better coordinate the two fora. The main objective is that of consolidating the prospects for sustainable growth. The Cancun Summit laid down a foundation on which to build.

Born at the height of the emergency, the G20 has achieved much, most recently in Seoul on the reform of financial institutions and the security of the international banking system. Nonetheless much remains to be done, above all in coordinating macroeconomic policies. If it is the case that Europe and the United States are having more trouble than the emerging economies it is just as true that the continued solidity of mature economies and their technological dynamism are fundamental in supporting the growth of developing economies.

We must also reflect on the deep flaws in a model of development based on a huge expansion of the financial sector. In many cases credit institutions took on enormous risks without adequate cover. Left to itself the market produced growth but revealed its feet of clay, at costs that included the increasing inequality with which we have to reckon today. The peaceful protests - although often marred by unacceptable violence - of so many citizens in the streets of our capitals are a sign of a malaise which democracies cannot ignore.

At the same time emerging and developing economies have erupted onto the scene. I cannot conceal the disequilibrium and the tensions which this new scenario creates for long-standing industrialized economies like Italy. Nor, however, would I ignore the fact that this revolution in international economic relations has pulled hundreds of millions of human beings out of their enslavement to poverty and want. That is a major success of the international system that has developed over the past 60 years and of the "globalization" of the past two decades. There is no doubt we must manage and not disown it.
The challenge before us today is not unlike the one that arose after the Second World War and which led to the creation of the Bretton Woods Institutions. It is important not to repeat the protective, isolationist and restrictive policies of the previous period. The model we should draw on is the far-seeing vision of the years of the birth of the IMF and the World Bank, the years of the United Nations and NATO and of the Coal and Steel Community and not the short-sightedness and national egoism of the twenties and thirties of last century.

This year, the after-effects of the global financial crisis have hit Europe's joint currency with particular force. Let us not underestimate the risks inherent for all. But let us remain steadfast in the conviction that the euro is a fundamental and irreversible achievement in our common purpose. And let me pay tribute to the memory of the recently-departed Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, a great Italian and European public figure, who was one of the protagonists in making that choice. It was not forced on us but taken freely; it was not wishful thinking for the project became reality; it is not a straitjacket - and it succeeded in bringing down some ancient barriers.

No member countries of the Eurozone can deny the extraordinary benefits which have stemmed for all. But the great choice made should be strengthened by providing the euro area with the means of managing the monetary union. What we have - I am thinking of the European Central Bank and the Stability Pact - works, but it is not enough. And if it involves greater integration we must have the courage to bring that about. It is a question of coherence with the strategic turning point we achieved twenty years ago now.

We have already taken some courageous decisions, most recently at the just-ended European Council. But greater determination is needed in formulating and implementing a political line inspired by the principles of cohesion and solidarity.

Moreover the community framework, while decisive, is not a substitute for national efforts. Within the community, member nations will need to undertake the structural adjustments designed to stabilize their budgets and at the same time promote mechanisms and policies capable of helping achieve stable and sustainable growth.
In that connection ideas such as those of Eurogroup President Juncker and Minister Tremonti concerning the issue of euro bonds in order to manage part of Europe's public debt deserve to be considered carefully and open-mindedly.
Europe, taking advantage of the innovations introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, is also called on to play a more incisive international role, particularly in responding to challenges and threats to global security. We welcome the creation of a European External Action Service (EEAS). I strongly hope that the next UN General Assembly will recognize the Union's strengthened legal personality.

The European Union has prime responsibility for the protection of its citizens and for international peace and stability. That makes it imperative to collaborate with the United Nations, the Atlantic Alliance, OECD and with regional organizations such as the African Union. Security cannot be provided in isolated compartments. And that should be the driving principle of any initiative that is to be hoped for in the context of the structured and strengthened cooperation foreseen by the Treaty.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2011 Italy will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its unification. I shall be glad to celebrate it with you and encourage you to take part in all the initiatives and events that will be taking place all over the country.

The "Idea of Italy" goes back much further than political unification. Italy existed before being born as a state. The 19th Century saw a group of small and medium-sized political and territorial entities which were artificially divided but were bound together by a language, culture and sensibility that were largely homogeneous turn an ancient Italian nation into a modern nation-state. The complex path towards unity can be seen to this day in modern Italy in the diversity and richness of regional and local realities - which I invite you to visit and get to know at first hand.

National unity also had the historical merit of opening the doors of the world and of Europe to Italy and of allowing it to making up the wide gap which separated it from the other great nation-states. In effect for Italy the period of the XIXth Century Risorgimento ideally ties in with the phase of European integration and Atlantic commitment in the second half of the XXth Century.

I find in both the same open and inclusive inspiration which Italy and Europe seek to maintain today, avoiding the temptation to close in on themselves. For Europe, that is fundamental in many ways, including that of international stability and prosperity towards neighbouring geographical areas. The final objective remains that of reconciling geographical boundaries with political ones without rigidity but with the capacity to respond to the demands of those who look to Europe with trust and with a sense of belonging.

Dear Ambassadors,
My long political and institutional experience has brought me into frequent and continuous contact with your activity. I have had occasion to appreciate not only the political and intellectual depth of your work but the spirit of sacrifice shown in difficult situations. Your mission is essential to the countries you represent and to the governments to whom your contribution is indispensable.

I would like to say a few words about a great diplomat whom we lost last week, Richard Holbrooke, whom I had an opportunity to meet personally many years ago. He played a decisive role restoring peace back to the Balkans and spared no efforts in more recent years in the mission to the benefit of Afghanistan and Pakistan. His figure stands for what is most noble in your profession and for the commitment and dedication which you expend, often anonymously, in all four corners of the world.

The importance which Italy attaches to the role of diplomacy is evidenced by the extensive reform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which has just begun under the leadership of Minister Frattini. Despite stringent financial limitations we would like to offer the country and all our international partners, you first and foremost, a more flexible and efficient instrument, one that is in tune with the changes that have occurred on the international scene.
To all those present I extend in the name of Italy my sincere thanks for the role which they play as diplomats in the service of their respective countries.
Diplomacy means aptitude and openness to diversity and dialogue; it is mediation and synthesis; it is technique and settlement of different values and interests in international relations. It is also, and increasingly so, a necessary instrument for preventing the occurrence, or managing the consequences, of the world's many crisis hotspots. In order to fulfil that role and to help resolve the differences between countries, realities and different points of view you need, and have the right to, discretion. It should be protected better. But do not allow an occasional and unhappy violation of confidentiality divert you from your mission in the interests of the friendly countries you represent and from the wider - and, allow me to say so, more noble - interests of peace and stability in the world.

A Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.