Italy And The European Union Essay

1731 words - 7 pages

The idea of a united Europe was present in Italy even before the end of the Second World War. As a matter of fact, in June 1941, E. Rossi and A. Spinelli, exiled on the island of Ventotene, published the so-called 'Ventotene Manifesto', which promoted a federation of states of Europe that, in their view, could prevent war, binding European countries closer together. The Manifesto encouraged the settlement of single European currency, army and foreign policy. Hence, it first became the programme of the 'Movimento Federalista Europeo', and then it began to be considered the European Union founding text. From that point on, even if the Italian relationship with and approach to the European Union (EU) have changed overtime, Italy has always been one of the major supporters of the European integration process.

Right from the beginning, Italy perceived European political and economic integration as a way toward economic development, democratic strengthening and modernisation, a framework within which the Italian state could enhance its own legitimacy in the domestic arena (Daniels, 1998). Thus, the most influential politicians and the major parties, together with the public opinion, all supported the European project, and this attitude based Italian foreign policy all the way until the mid-1990s. Primarily, joining Europe meant for the country to place itself on the US' side of the Cold War conflict. Italy's idea of Europe pushed towards a more super-national, institutionalized and less inter-governmental model, that had to be realized through a further political integration. Thus, it called for the strengthening of European institutions and the tightening of the policy cooperation system. Indeed, in every treaty negotiation, it has always promoted institutional reform, extension of policy competence and improvement of the decision-making capacity. However, the situation changed around 1994, when president Silvio Berlusconi took office and started to promote a new Euro-realist view, more critical towards integration. This perspective triumphed at the beginning of the new century, when national interest took precedence over the EU one, bilateral relations in foreign policy were preferred and European impositions were not looked kindly upon anymore, while in the civil society a trend toward decreasing in the support of integration was registered. Nevertheless, the pro-integration paradigm remained vivid in the centre-left parties, which continued to support it while in office, causing consistent shifts in the Italian European foreign policies, since the left and right coalitions had been winning the elections alternately (Daniels, 1998). However, the Italian general official position welcomed the devolution of more power to Brussels, the improvement of European integration and the strengthening of both the European Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy; in addition, it was overall pro-enlargement, especially regarding the case of...

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