10 luglio 2014
(Intervista di Agence Europee al Sottosegretario Sandro Gozi)
Agence Europe - What are the priorities of the Italian Presidency of the EU?
Sandro Gozi, under-Secretary of State for European Affairs - The main priorities are a common European growth policy and fighting unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. The aim is to turn growth into a matter of European interest and common action. This means that we need to implement, with specific characteristics, the macro-economic rules, but also to make an effort to identify and create instruments at European level in favour of productive investments of common interest.
Fighting unemployment has to be carried out through reinforcing and extending the instruments already in place, particularly the youth guarantee, but we also need to work on other measures which could allow us to start to build a genuinely European employment market, such as initiatives for European employment agencies or increasing mobility programmes for apprentices.
The second main growth-creating priority is developing a policy for a real economy. Europe cannot be solely a finance-based economy; it needs to be a Europe which sets policies in place for a real economy. We need to work on a single digital market, and develop a truly common energy policy. We must also develop the scoreboard for the first principles of industrial policy decided upon by the European Council of March 2014. There is also work to be done to arrive at a common and ambitious EU position in the fight against climate change. This is also an industrial policy choice: we need to create synergies between the environmental aspect and the employment aspect and to develop initiatives for “green jobs”.
The Italian Presidency also intends to work on the fundamental rights. Why is this?
It is clear that we need to open the debate on how the EU can prevent risks of systemic violations of fundamental rights and how we can organise monitoring on a fundamental theme within which there are urgent aspects, such as a truly common immigration policy and a proper European asylum system.
Indeed, this common immigration policy and proper European asylum system are priorities of the Italian Presidency.
Our third major thematic priority is the Mediterranean. The Euro-Mediterranean policy must be a priority of our six months of presidency and the new legislative period. In order to develop a genuinely common policy for the management of the external maritime border of the Mediterranean - which is vital for us - the Frontex agency needs a far more operational role, so that it can gradually replace the Mare Nostrum operation.
There are also Mediterranean dimensions in the various common policies we wish to develop, particularly those with a bearing on the energy policy. When we talk of diversifying European sources of energy supply, we look first of all to the south. We also need to make progress in the mobility partnerships with all of the countries of North Africa and, in the future, with the countries of the Horn of Africa, and work on policies with an economic cooperation and local development dimension and those relating to joint responsibility in managing migratory flows.
On these questions of migration and asylum, how do you intend to convince your colleagues that these questions need to be dealt with in a more European way, rather than in a spirit of southern countries versus northern countries?
We feel that this theme of North versus South is evolving. That we are left on our own to save human lives in the Mediterranean and fight human traffickers and the fact that there are countries, such as Sweden, with a considerably higher number of refugees and asylum applications to deal with than the European average, are two aspects of the same problem: the lack of a genuinely European immigration and border management policy, and the lack of a genuinely common asylum management system.
We are committed to encouraging Europe to develop these two policies, which are of common interest. It is time to make progress on them. The short-sightedness, indifference and selfishness towards human tragedies in the Mediterranean of the Europe of yesterday are completely unacceptable. But we are already in the Europe of tomorrow and we want this Europe to provide far more solid, effective and fairer responses to questions of immigration and asylum.
What are the Presidency's plans in terms of neighbourhood, enlargement and foreign policy?
As regards neighbourhood, we plan to continue the EU's action in Eastern Europe, particularly in Ukraine. We also want to relaunch - and set the pace of - the enlargement process to the Western Balkans, particularly Albania and Serbia.
Looking to the West and to the East, there are two major priorities. To the East, we see a coming-together between Europe and Asia, with an EU-ASEM summit in Milan on 16 and 17 October. To the West, negotiations continue with the United States over the TTIP, which we see as a strategic process for Europe and of huge importance for European and Italian industry. There are obstacles, the negotiation process may not conclude until 2015, but we wish to give it a further shot in the arm.
Coming back to the functioning of your Presidency, it comes at a time of transition, with a new Parliament, a change of Commission and a new President of the European Council. Will this be a very specific Presidency?
It will certainly be a very specific Presidency, but it is also a political opportunity, in that we will be the only fixed point in an institutional environment in transition. We want to use these six months to provide a concrete and immediate response to the European citizens, who massively voted in favour of a radical change in EU policies. We need to respond to their demands with a six-month period in which we discuss the major political, economic and social orientations for the new legislative period.
Another of the priorities of your Presidency is to discuss the future of the EU, from an institutional point of view and also a political one. Basically, what does that mean?
We will interpret our Presidency not as a few months of transition, but as the first six months of a new legislative period of five years, which has to be a legislative period of change in Europe.
It is quite clear that the EU's system of functioning is a theme on which we have to open a debate, and we would like to organise several sessions of the General Affairs Council to see how we can improve this functioning. We also have to question whether the current functioning of the Council of Ministers is still up to the job, in light of the new political priorities. And even if this will obviously be the clear prerogative of the new President of the Commission, we wish to reflect on how the Commission has functioned, and how it should function, with the idea of clusters of commissioners.
Talking about the future of the EU also means taking stock of the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, seeing whether there is still any potential to make use of the strategic common policy objectives (economic policy, industrial policy, immigration policy, fundamental rights). We also need to see if there is any opportunity to restart the work on a reinforcement of inter-institutional cooperation.
Then, we need to see whether there are any clauses in the existing treaties which could be revised to achieve the new political objectives. The aim is not to launch a formal treaty revision process or to take any formal decisions, but to see whether there are any aspects of the treaties that should be revised in the course of the legislative period. We want to encourage this debate at the start of the legislative period, because we feel that this is the best time to do so.presidenza italiana