The Long March
If it is true that Europeanism represented and still constitutes a core orientation in contemporary Italian history, it has also determined a concrete policy guideline of democratic Italy.
The first parliamentary opposition to Italy's participation in European initiatives came at the time of the ratification of the Council of Europe in 1949.
The statute approved by the ten countries allowed each government to establish procedures for the appointment of Member State representatives to the Consultative Assembly. And, as regards the 18 representatives that Italy was to send, our government proposed that seven each be elected by the two Houses of Parliament, leaving the remaining four to the Cabinet to nominate.
If it is true that Europeanism represented and still constitutes a core orientation in contemporary Italian history, it has also determined a concrete policy guideline of democratic Italy
There was heated debate begun with a harsh discourse by Palmiro Togliatti
(Italian Communist Party leader) claiming a quota of representatives for the opposition
parties. The government's objection to this was that those who had voted in Parliament
against the creation of this institution could not then be a part of its organs. Thus the
absolute majority clause was formulated and, with just one vote against, it was approved
that all 18 to be sent as delegates would be elected by both Houses.
It must be said that a few of the objections raised were not very consistent, such as the theory of Senator Gerini who, correctly excluding that it was a representative delegation of the Parliament, then went on to sustain that the 18 elected "were acting on their own behalf and on their own responsibility. He added: "They are citizens who, ideally, are to be taken away from any particular State entity, called to fulfill consultative activities for ends established by the competent organs of the various States and responsible in the sight of their own consciences and the public opinion of the nations concerned".
Of a substantial nature were the criticisms of (Socialist) Lelio Basso who rebuked (Foreign Minister Carlo Sforza for presenting the Council as the birth of European unity proper. (Pre-Fascist Premier Senator Francesco Saverio) Nitti, meanwhile, destroyed at the root any possibility of agreement by punning the expressions of Council of Europe with our presumption to counsel Europe. But just when his skepticism was at its height, he said he was happy enough that the ratification be approved because "Italians are very fortunate: they know how not to apply the law". And he compounded this by insisting: "The characteristic of us Italians, our error but also our strength, is that we do not apply the law yet we do not abrogate it". I quote this as a symptom of the difficulties that many men of illustrious pre-Fascist past - but certainly not all - had in coming to terms with the fact that overcoming national spheres was a constructive element for a future of peace and progress.
Unfortunately the Cold War prevented Leftist forces from adopting an attitude which would also have been culturally consonant with the concerns they represented.
In 1951, a further step towards continental integration was taken with the creation of the Coal and Steel Community. Without detracting at all from the undoubted skill and productivity of this problematical sector, it was of great - and, I think, prevalent - importance to give life to a political reality common to the European peoples, endowing it with suitable institutions, including a parliamentary assembly.
|London 1949. Delegates from the various European countries take part in the European Economic Conference organized by the European Movement|
In the general climate of communication breakdown, the hostility that greeted
the second step forward was, perhaps, inevitable: the Economic Defence Community (EDC).
One reason it was opposed was that it was said to be an appendix of the Atlantic Treaty.
But, and besides the value of democratic safeguards for a more than legitimate German
recovery, it had been born of the desire for western Europe to make a specific
contribution to the common inter-Atlantic defence. Signed in 1951, the EDC was shelved in
Italy because the country had entered one of its cyclical seasons of crisis which,
following the De Gasperi Government's fall in July 1953, prevented (the new Premier
Giuseppe) Pella from even presenting a bill on ratification and the (immediately sucessive
Premier Mario) Scelba from inviting debate.
De Gasperi made a cross of this for himself and it tormented him in the final days of his life. When it was pointed out to him that France under (Premier) Pierre Mendes-France would have rejected the agreement stipulated by (Foreign Minister) Robert Schuman, he replied that a prompt vote in the Italian Parliament would have offered an eleventh-hour support to all those who were battling for ratification at the Bourbon Palace. The National Assembly in Paris threw out the EDC a few days after the death of De Gasperi so at least he was spared this official confirmation.
A strong logical and political thread binds the EDC to the 1957 Treaties but the documentation regarding it is packed with denials of this. Understandably. People who, after years of contrasting it, at last were persuaded of the worth of the Community's development, found themselves having to justify their prior rejection. This was the case of the Socialists who had abstained from the Treaties of Rome; but, more so, of the Communists who voted against after intervening on the question with severity and launching catastrophic predictions. We had to wait until the end of the 1960s for signs of a change in tune.
It should be said, perhaps, that the effort to bring the left wing more in line was not helped by extending to the EEC Parliament the election by Parliament at home of Italian representatives to the Council of Europe and the Coal and Steel Community. Apart from the juridical connotations, many of us sensed the political weakness that would result from this hostility. We were similarly uneasy about our international commitments in the NATO camp. What security was Italy offering with such a specific and large opposition party if the Soviet Union were to trigger a conflict? It is in this light that the efforts some of us made should be interpreted (I was Chief Whip for the Christian Democrats in the Lower House at the time). We tried to extend the protection within Europe to the whole Parliament. To be exact, I have to say that the change had also been helped along - not only by the examples of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium which adopted proportional representation - by the block on renewing the Italian delegation, that had formed when the Christian Democratic Party and its allies lost their absolute majority. The result was that even former Italian MPs and former Senators continued to sit in the European Assembly. Thus for the first time, on January 21 1969, such people as (Communists) Nilde Iotti and Giorgio Amendola were able to become Euro-MPs.
France and the United Kingdom had similar problems. In the early years of the EEC, French Communists had refused to sit in what (French Communist leader) Maurice Thorez had described as "a presumed assembly". They changed their minds in 1964 but had to wait until 1971-1973 to sit in Strasburg when the Socialists threatened to boycott the Euro-Parliament unless Communists were delegated. The result was the election of three MPs and a senator.
Unfortunately the Cold War prevented Leftist forces from adopting an attitude which would also have been culturally consonant with the concerns they represented
The British Labour Party had also deserted Strasburg in rejection of the Treaty
signed by the Conservative Premier Edward Heath. They went back in July 1975 after Harold
Wilson's Labour Government re-negotiation, sanctioned by a large majority in a referendum.
Only at that point, did the European Parliament have any real representative value. Since 1979, Euro-MPs have been elected by single, direct suffrage.
Also unforgettable was the long march to have all the left wing accept a foreign policy of the European and Atlantic stamp. Without specific personal efforts and despite the thrust of precarious financial and security situations, the 1976 accords under the banner of "national solidarity" would never have come about. The paper the next year, signed and passed in both Houses also by the Communists, officially sealed the Atlantic Treaty and the European Community as fundamental constituent points of reference for Italian foreign policy. The Socialists had anticipated this stand on a line with their slow abandonment of the opposition.
But in interpreting those events of 1977, we should remember that in the meantime the Helsinki Accord on security and cooperation had been made and signed by all European countries - except Albania - and with the United States and Canada. Skeptics objected that it was an lllusion to believe in these policies while the USSR was still proclaiming that its allies had only limited national sovereignty. Aldo Moro, who signed in Helsinki as the Community's six-month rota president, promptly replied: "Brezhnev will pass away but the pledge to cooperate will remain and bear fruit".
The priority ascribed to domestic issues - I would say domestic party politics - has made the road to Europe more difficult for many Italians. And this has been done ignoring De Gasperi's recommendation that domestic policy be on a line with foreign policy and not the other way around.
|Paris, April 18 1951. The European Community of coal and steel is born. Its Treaty is signed by, from left, Paul van Zeeland for Belgium, Joseph Bech for Luxemburg, Carlo Sforza for Italy, Robert Schuman for France, Dirk Stikker for the German Federal Republic and Johannes van den Brink for the Netherlands|
A typical episode in this erroneous trend came in 1957 and not by fault of the
opposition. A few weeks after the signing of the Treaties of Rome on the Capitoline Hill
(seat of Rome City Government), which were then sent for immediate Parliamentary
ratification, the four-party government chaired by Antonio Segni was beset by crisis. He
was replaced by the Christian Democrat Government under Adone Zoli. Thus for reasons of
majority lobbies it was not Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino, who had been the great
weaver of the agreements themselves, structured according to the model elaborated at the
famed Messina meeting in July 1955, who illustrated and defended the texts in the
Parliamentary Houses. The proceedings report of the Lower House, however, recorded a
highly documented speech by the Rt. Hon. Martino from the benches. In it, he rightly
claimed his part in the historial materialization of the texts. No other testimonies are
needed: I was Finance Minister throughout that whole period and I am not only familiar
with the day-to-day updates that the Foreign Minister made to the Cabinet but also with
the great care he took in following the work of the preparatory group in perfect harmony
with his Belgian counterpart Paul Henry Spaak.
The intrinsic force of justice and of ideal values is believed to have attenuated and dispelled all the initial objections to the Rome Accords. We still hear talk of Euro-Pessimism. But the fact remains that the initial six countries have gradually become 15 and many others are decisively seeking to become Members. Moreover, by means of two significant landmarks - the Single Act of Luxemburg and the Treaty of Maastricht now combined in the Amsterdam Accords - the Community has become Union and, in substance, some considerable steps forward have been taken on fronts which were not very participatory at the outset. I refer to the social problems and to the sensibilization of regional structures destined in various ways to prevent the Union's becoming a cartel of centralized capitals.
It should be stressed that both the Single Act of Luxemburg and the Treaty of Maastricht are the direct fruits of accords which developed in two Council of Europe meetings held in Italy, the first in Milan and the second in Rome.
In the debate on initial ratification in 1957, the (Socialist) Rt. Hon. Riccardo Lombardi had been somewhat paradoxically critical of the Treaty because full implementation schedules seemed to him to be over-protracted. What then happened can certainly be viewed from an opposite perspective: on one hand, the value of inverting the historical trend of conflictual positions has been confirmed in the construction of a common home upon which Italy has conferred part of her sovereignty as wisely envisaged under Article 11 of the Constitution of the Republic. On the other hand, there are people pained by the persistence of State individualism curbing the whole plan of integration although the prospect now imminent of a single currency will remove a considerable portion of these, albeit noble, sources of irritation. A portion. For, if it is improper to speak of "entering into Europe" when we are and remain founder Members, it is equally true that none too few essential goals, especially some of the Maastricht ones, must still be attained and that, from an institutional point of view, the latest decisions taken at Amsterdam have disappointed. I refer in particular to the goal of "affirming the identity of the European Union on the international scene, specifically in the implementation of a common foreign and security policy." Unfortunately, events in the Balkans and some of the polemics about the United Nations Security Council are in conflict with this clear proposition, further specified in "global coherence in the sphere of policies on the matter of foreign relations, security, the economy and development".
The priority ascribed to domestic issues - I would say domestic party politics - has made the road to Europe more difficult for many Italians. And this has been done ignoring De Gasperi's recommendation that domestic policy be on a line with foreign policy and not the other way around
The hopes, especially of the young, are mainly placed in one area today: the
restructuring and diversifying of the whole economic apparatus to reconcile technical
progress and response to the frenzied demand for jobs. The European Union has recognized,
now that some countries who were hesitant in the past are no longer so, that this is a
Community problem and that, if it is not, "European citizenship" would be vain
However, Europe - all of us - can but recognize that it is in a privileged position in terms of its availability of resources compared with a very large part of the family of man.
And, to conclude, I wish to recall an aspect which was both innovative and characteristic of Community action that is not always given the attention due to it. I refer to the great economic and political linkages with the countries of the so-called Third World, a network installed by the EEC first by means of free trade relations with the 18 non-EC countries with special associations with the Treaty of Rome signatories and which were acquiring their independence. Immediately in their wake came the conventions with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). They marked the start of a network of support for development which, upon the United Kingdom's entry, was extended to all the areas of the Commonwealth and in other directions. There came a general re-ordering culminating on February 28, 1975 with the Lomè Convention.
Perhaps, though there is really no doubt about it, the aid in terms of quantity is not exceptional. But its significance is unequivocal. Within the Union we have to install justice in the form of more equality. But at the same time we are not reneging on the imperative of wider-reaching solidarity, unrestricted by continental frontiers, which also entails sacrifices. Sometimes, as individuals and communities, we should look not just to those who are better off, trying to reach their level or at least reduce the dislevel, but to all those families and entire populations who are struggling in conditions that can only be described as inhuman.
It is this awareness and the behavior patterns born of it that characterizes, I believe, European civilization.