Palazzo del Quirinale 19/12/2011

Address by the President Napolitano on the occasion of the exchange of greetings with the Diplomatic Corps

Most Excellent Deputy Dean,
Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank you, Deputy Dean, for your eloquent and meaningful words on behalf of the old and noble institution you have represented for these many years. And I wish to return to the entire Diplomatic Corps your most gratifying greetings to Italy and to me personally.

We meet at the end of a year fraught with emotion and continuing apprehension for the international community. Allow me, therefore, to greet you with a renewed invitation to confidence. Confidence in the ferment for democracy and freedom by which peoples are being inspired; confidence in the prospects for renewed cooperation amongst nations; confidence in the determination shown by governments and international organisations in responding to trials and difficulties that are often difficult to foresee.

And a confidence that is justified by the facts. The European Union has been faced by a financial crisis that is without precedent in the decade-long history of the single currency, the euro. In response - starting with the heads of state and government of its member states - it has poured its energies into the difficult quest to find the road to recovery, fiscal discipline and renewed competitiveness. A demanding mission by the Atlantic Alliance, based on UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, supported by the Arab League and with the active participation of Italy, provided effective help for the Libyan people, who have taken their destiny back into their own hands. International solidarity has responded in wholehearted fashion to the disasters, natural and otherwise, that have afflicted the planet over the last year. I am thinking here, in particular, of the humanitarian tragedy wrought by the Fukushima tsunami, but also of the senseless massacre in Oslo and Utoya. Indeed, I would like to grasp this opportunity to once again express to the Ambassadors of Japan and Norway the Italian people's condolences and friendship in response to the tragic events that struck their countries this year.
And today I wish to express our solidarity with the victims of the dreadful disaster that has overwhelmed the Philippine people. I would ask their Ambassador to convey that solidarity to President Aquino in the name, too, of all those present in this room.

Italy is convinced that the challenges we face today, challenges that are often planetary in scope, require a concerted, multilateral response. From climate change to the need to ensure that the entire global population has decent living standards and that their human dignity is respected; from grave economic-financial turmoil to the threats to security and peace. Modernisation and economic growth processes cannot advance without protection for minorities and respect for the fundamental freedoms - of which freedom of religion and conscience are and remain essential - and for human rights. The most vulnerable individuals - women and children first and foremost - and, more in general, the younger generations, deserve special protection. Our young people are the undisputed actors in the demands for freedom and social justice that we have witnessed and are indeed still witnessing, most notably in many Arab countries.

We are extremely concerned about the worsening situation in Syria. Italy supports the initiatives of the Arab League and encourages the action taken by the Security Council to halt the violence against the population and defuse the tensions that threaten the stability of neighbouring countries also.
Allow me to spend some time here on the two shocks that have dominated the international scene and closely affected Italy, shocks that have still by no means abated.

The fiscal and financial crisis that has struck the euro area is difficult to measure in its destabilising scope and potential. It strikes at the very roots of the European Union and threatens the economic stability and well-being of the entire world. Europe has embarked on the arduous path it must follow to emerge from this crisis, most recently with the further measures taken by the European Council of 8-9 December. The measures passed by the new Italian Government and currently being approved - rapidly - by Parliament have made a significant contribution to those measures, a contribution that entails sacrifices for all of us.

But while Italy is playing - and I am sure will continue to play - its part, in more general terms the pathway leading us out of the crisis is both European and supra-national. And its impact extends well beyond the borders for the 17 or the 28: while for Europe the stakes are high indeed, the repercussions will affect the whole world. Any idea of national short-cuts is mere illusion.
The anxiety that has been our constant companion since last summer has not been dispelled. In Italy and in the Union, however, we believe that we have identified the steps that need to be taken to defuse a crisis that did not arise in Europe but arrived from afar. We would do well to remember that. Since 2008, the need for a new system of global economic governance has become impelling. That is the challenge the G20 countries are addressing with varying degrees of progress, while for Europe, and especially for the eurozone, the problem of strengthening fiscal discipline and our common institutions has come increasingly to the fore.

The new "International Agreement" - of not just 17 but possibly 26 member states - announced in Brussels (and whose relationship with the Community framework remains to be clarified) aims to subject national budgets and economic policies to shared sovereignty. This process must proceed in step with the immediate defence of the financial stability of the eurozone countries and essentially with the - as yet inadequate -strengthening of the firewall that will be needed if we are to protect sovereign debt and save the single currency.

On one point there can be no doubts: the impossibility of giving up the euro, and our determination to defend it. Because it is a pillar of European integration, the culmination of a long, carefully considered evolution. And because the stability of the world economy is closely linked to the solidity of the single currency. Even countries that are not members of the eurozone are asking Italy and Europe to safeguard the euro. The leaders of the eurozone countries, for their part, must not forget that the single currency has brought notable, lasting benefits to all the economies, large and small, that are part of this project.
With the far-sighted instincts shown by the single market, Europe acted in advance of the globalisation timescale. The direction followed has not changed, but the pace has become more pressing. No one European country, not matter how large and efficient, can compete successfully on the same stage as the big emerging economies or against the supra-national macro-economies that are taking their place on that stage.

Our vision of the European project cannot be limited to its monetary, financial or economic dimension. The fabric of the 27-member (now 28) Community must be safeguarded and protected by implementing the Lisbon Treaty in full. I am thinking here of the common foreign and security policy; immigration and asylum; the Charter of Fundamental Rights; the heritage of principles and values; the shared law on which the European Union rests and on which it must build its future. Enlargement, as a Euro-Atlantic process, has had the historic merit of stabilising the fracture-lines that criss-crossed the heart of our continent. It now needs to be completed in the western Balkans and with the other countries whose accession bids we have accepted in good faith. Enhanced cooperation with those countries is part of a unified architecture that reinforces the common European project. Europe remains one; to imagine two or even more "Europes" would mean sliding down a slope at the bottom of which no Europe at all would remain.

We Europeans have a responsibility to continue with courage and a unified political will in the construction of an increasingly integrated Europe, following the trail of our shared history, culture and humanity. Shared, yet mindful of the plurality that is the fundamental wealth of our continent.

The passing of Vaclav Havel, a man who from Prague was both the inspiration for and leading player in a democratic re-awakening of consciences and peoples that peacefully unified our continent, reminds us of the highest inspiration and motivation that lie behind the European project.

As Willy Brandt, a great European who was well aware of the indissoluble bond between his country and European unity, declared on the subject of German national reunification: "that which has common roots must be united". There is an urgent need today to transmit that same vision to European public opinion by involving Parliaments, the social forces, and regional and local administrations in the debate. And above all by involving the younger generations - those who have never known a divided Europe and view its unity, with the successes achieved over time, as a grace received rather than a conquest that was as visionary as it was arduous.

In the north, the public indebtedness problem lay smouldering in the ashes; in the south, the winds of the "Arab awakening" took us all by surprise. However, we immediately perceived the drive for renewal and democratic progress it represented. Hence the fellow-feeling, the encouragement and the active support extended by Italy, Europe and many countries represented here today. In the Mediterranean we have witnessed both traumatic change and the announcement and first steps of reforms designed to provide a prompt response to the demand for an extension of political participation and social consensus. The goals to pursue can but be: stronger institutions; democratic transparency; and responsible, representative governments. The path is arduous and littered with difficult stretches but we are confident in our countries and our governments' ability to overcome them, gradually and with courage. European history is anything but extraneous to this experience.

The Mediterranean and the Arab world have been the theatre for recent change, but social and political renewal is not confined to geographical or cultural compartments and draws to a broad extent on experience such as Europe's. Globalisation is not just a matter of the economy, production and trade. In today's world, ideas too travel freely - irrespective of artificial barriers and national borders. Peoples and civil societies share aspirations and expectations. News travels instantaneously over a tightly woven network of communications - without filters.

The "awakening" in countries that are friends and close neighbours has broken the convenient equation between conservatism and stability. Stability that is not founded on consensus or on the rule of law and respect for minorities and for human dignity is merely apparent and illusory. All the more so when regimes - irrespective of the rhetoric of their utterances - have recourse to repression rather than dialogue and reform. For the democratic process to gain a firm foothold, elections must be able to take place in a context of institutional consolidation, stabilisation, or gradual transition. The democratic exercise of the right to vote in itself has the effect of calming the climate within the countries concerned and of defusing the tensions inherent to sectarian divisions.
The security of our nations, our stability, and the prevention of unlawful trafficking and illegal immigration are and continue to be well-founded concerns for the entire international community, of the "northern" and the "southern" shores of a world where these demarcation lines are becoming less and less clear. Last week I was pleased to receive the Libyan President, Jalil, here, and was heartened to see his resolve to tackle these problems in close collaboration with Italy and neighbouring countries. We need to think of what unites us, not what divides us, in our identities and our traditions. In the renewal taking place in the countries of the southern Mediterranean we hope too that Islam will play a positive role in drawing people together.

The new Mediterranean scenario calls Europe into play. The Union cannot imagine that it can cut itself off from the ferment of renewal in the region. Nor can it "outsource" the management of that ferment solely to those European countries that look southwards. The peoples of the Mediterranean are asking Europe to engage in a new, and concrete, working partnership and a frank and comprehensive dialogue free from ideological "no-go areas". This is a shared responsibility. We share interests and demographic and social challenges; we share a single border. To date, our reactions have failed to match the historic import of the events playing out in this part of the world. I feel bound here to express my appreciation of the attention the Polish Presidency of the Union has paid to this subject. The results, however, are not yet satisfactory.

With our neighbours in the southern Mediterranean, Italy and Europe also have in common the scourge of unemployment and the lack of job opportunities for our young people. It is to these young people, inspired by hope in civil and social renewal, that we must restore a sense of trust in the future and of belonging to a community. We can do so by offering them access to decent education and training, and through more intensive university and training exchange programmes. Investment in our young people is an investment in peace, a wager that we need to win if we are to see a better world.

Europe and the Mediterranean have dominated recent international news but Italy continues to be an active and pro-active actor on the broader world stage. And Europe cannot limit its gaze solely to events and problems within its borders. If it is to retain its competitive appeal, the Mediterranean must open its doors to participants from the rest of the world. The G8's Deauville Partnership is moving in this direction: the mobilisation of new resources and instruments should be stepped up and the issues for cooperation broadened in scope to include, for example, the environment, energy security, migratory flows and access to markets.

The world's economic balances are shifting - a change that will inevitably be followed by a political re-alignment also - and its centres of gravity are multiplying. In 2050, Europe will represent just 6% of the global population. The emergence of Asia and the Pacific is, in some respects, a return to a more balanced distribution of resources and capacities. In the history of humanity, until the trend was reversed in the last 3-4 centuries, Asia's share of wealth production was much higher than Europe's. The East has succeeded in adopting those elements of the western experience that are essential for growth: the market economy; the promotion of science and new technologies; widely available education. In grafting these innovations on to traditional values, it has brought an end to poverty for hundreds of millions of people, inspired a sense of pride in their work and broadened their personal freedoms. As President Obama expressed it so well to the Australian Parliament, "the Asia Pacific is critical to [...] creating jobs and opportunity for the American people" - and, I would add, for the people of Europe - and "will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress".

And Asia Pacific is not alone. The major centres of economic growth, political progress and cultural creativity of the Americas are taking their place on the stage. The huge potential of the African continent is at last being freed up and fruitfully deployed.
All of the international actors, who are so well represented here today, must today find a common ground to discuss global themes: climate change, market regulation, sustainable development and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this new period in our history we must avoid tension and confrontation, and resist any temptation to fall back on sterile protectionist isolationism.

This overview of an international scenario fraught with anxiety, ferment and hope has not led me to forget that during the year that is drawing to a close Italy has been celebrating the 150th Anniversary of its Unity. In our desire to involve you in this solemn commemoration we were fully aware of the road followed by our united Italy during these 150 years and of the goals that lie ahead of us. The birth of the Italian nation state in 1861 was an event of great significance in the history of the national movements and uprisings for freedom taking place at the time in Europe, and in the evolution of the continent's equilibria. Since the mid-20th century, Italy has succeeded in finding its rightful place and assuming its rightful responsibilities in the international community. This is particularly true in its role as a founding country, with its principal neighbours, of an integrated and united Europe. Today, Italy is called to tackle new challenges, in a period of radical and unceasing change on the global stage. These are common challenges that we must be prepared to grasp and win together. Well, Italy will play its part in advancing the cause of peace, human rights and democracy in the world, and of balanced, just and sustainable economic and social development at the global level. It will do so in multilateral fora; it will do so in a spirit of loyalty to its commitments and alliances; it will do so in military peace missions; it will do so in the process of European unity and integration.

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to you all for your countless expressions of friendship and affection, for the celebratory events you have organised, many of which I had to pleasure to attend, and for your contribution to the 150th Anniversary celebrations throughout Italy. I am especially gratified to recall the presence on 2 June of many Heads of State and Government and senior institutional authorities, as testimony to a universal wave of affection for our nation.

Many of you undertook personally to ensure that your countries were represented here at the highest possible level. I am grateful to you for that commitment. The Italian people viewed this sign of friendship as a recognition of the best qualities it knows it possesses and as a renewed confidence in its ability to overcome the most difficult tests posed by history.
There are times when our country's identity stands out to best effect outside our borders. In our numerous communities firmly attached to the idea of Italy; in the approval and appreciation of the populations of the countries where our military are operating; in the quality represented by the "Made in Italy" brand; in the wealth of cooperation initiatives, archaeological and restoration missions, and educational and scientific institutions we promote; and in the missionary activity of Italian religious throughout the world, especially through the structures of the Roman Catholic Church. But this year, thanks to the wholesale participation of the Italian people in our streets and squares, thanks to the huge variety and sheer number of grassroots initiatives, Italy has rediscovered a unified, national consciousness that in the past has been sorely tested, but survived. This consciousness will grasp and win the demanding challenges that lie before us.

I began by speaking of renewed confidence: in the international community and in Italy. I wished to share this conviction with you, and would like, on the occasion of the imminent Christmas and New Year holidays, to wish you every serenity and joy.