A New Renaissance? Renzi, Italy and the United States of Europe

* This article (and the image) was originally published in the Project for Democratic Union

 

Matteo Renzi’s new offer of a United States of Europe is a beacon of hope both for the continent and for Italy itself.

“For my children’s future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe”

“Matteo Renzi”

 

n a recent speech, the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi made a statement that was of great surprise for the European Union and for Italy itself. A great surprise for the European Union because it takes steps on one of the most polemic, complicated yet desirable and needed issue: a much more closer and stronger political union rather than a mere economic one. A great surprise for Italy since it sets the course the country, under the lead of Mr Renzi, will take now that it has taken the lead of the EU this week. it also depicts the role that Italy – according to Matteo Renzi – is to play, as part of plans to turn it into an important actor within the Union’s politics (as it was mentioned in my previous article about Italy). And it is also a good indication that a country that had a hard decade by being hit by the crisis is ready to rise again and play an important role in the construction of the European Union.

But what is exactly the “United States of Europe” idea that the Italian Prime Minister strongly supports and wants to push for? It worth to be mentioned that this idea is quite old, Winston Churchill being among the first voices claiming for its creation. He stated that such step was a necessary one at some point as the nations unwilling to unite would have to be left behind. He also stated that the United States of Europe would overcome the material power of a single state while including the contributions of small nations to the common cause of rebuilding and strengthening Europe. Most importantly, the idea of the United States of Europe would have as main aim the provision of peace, safety and freedom.

How would the “United States of Europe” a la Renzi be? Clearly one of his main objectives is to have Italy make have an important contribution to the project of the European Union. But he also has another objective in mind: to tackle the worrisome rise of populist (and nationalist) Eurosceptic parties by the offering an ideal of a Europe that does not stands only on the sole economic realm but also can sail through the unchartered waters of the political realm. This path is to be taken while reminding everyone that Europe has both a past and a destiny impossible to escape and mandatory to fulfil – and that only a strong unity can help Europe to face many of the challenges it faces, external and/or internal.

This is indeed a huge objective and a great opportunity for Italy – and Renzi himself – to contribute to the rescue of the European Union after the Eurocrisis and the spark of anti-European sentiment all across the continent. Beyond any doubt, this will the main pillar of his foreign policy which, in turn, is on to be reinforced by other objectives that might appear unrelated to the idea of the “United States of Europe”. In reality, they are very close and they might even be the complementary and specifictopics that can aid on the materialization of the USE. The push for certain reforms on structure and fiscal areas are the first of these complementary and specific objectives. The economic growth is the second. Fiscal flexibility is the keyword of these complementary objectives. Additionally, energy security, migration, youth unemployment, investment for medium- and small- enterprises and tax reforms are the other topics that Italy seeks to work on during its six-month Presidency.

But this great opportunity has to face some important obstacles. At the moment, the struggle waged by the United Kingdom regarding the nomination of Juncker for the Presidency of the European Commission, leading to a crisis where the UK is on the potential brink of leaving the Union, is just one. In turn, Italy has to face with Britain’s own ideas regarding the path the European integration should take, opposed to its own. And as a second obstacle, Italy has to convince the EU rich countries that to ease the fiscal rules is not a path towards a public overspending (again).

Beyond any question, Italy is not only on the verge of putting an end to a turbulent half a dozen years, but also to play a big role in Europe and even in the world by influencing and – hopefully – materializing or at least preparing the Union to take the very necessary step of a full political Union. That Union is not only for the sake of, as Churchill said, the small European nations but for the Union and the continent itself. Europe is at the crossroads of becoming an important actor in international politics and in the security and stability of the world, not to mention its economic role that it plays currently. This United States of Europe might make Europe not only united, but strong and ready to face together the adversities to come.

Let’s hope that Italy can make of this presidency the greatest of recent history, if not a milestone itself for the European Union and the world. If it does so, the name of Renzi will go to the history books as the man that saved and reshaped Europe. And Italy, in turn, could give to Europe a contribution as important as the Renaissance in the 15th century, bringing back again the light to a continent that like in those times, is sailing under a huge black storm. The outcome could be simply significant for the nation itself.

Image: ‘Herculaneum – flags EU and Italian’ courtesy of Elliott Brown via Flickr, released under Creative Commons.

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