After ratification – More competition among member states

Italy will seek ratification of the EU's new reform treaty by a parliamentary vote rather than through a referendum, working rapidly in order for the new treaty to be ratified and enter into force in time for the European Parliament elections of June 2009. As a matter of fact, in order to start the process leading to the ratification and implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, a bill was approved by the Council of Ministers on December 21st 2007.  The majority of Italian political parties are expected to support the new agreement, which, being largely similar to the text of the draft Constitution, is not expected to face any major political opposition.

Discourse on the preparation of ratification

Most of the Italian press has given emphasis to the necessity for Italy to initiate a major national debate on the innovations introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, in order to play a key role in furthering it. Within the new institutional architecture each member will count for what it can propose and for its level of credibility on the European and world scene. In fact, the possibility for a group of states to establish enhanced cooperation between themselves will make EU membership become increasingly competitive. Against this background, the Italian press questions whether Italy is now prepared to cope with this far greater level of competitiveness. Should Italy continue being a country politically divided, it will inevitably end up not having the "specific weight" necessary to face the new situation with the Lisbon Treaty. Italy has until 2009 to adapt to a “competition in which every chair and every seat will have to be fought for”. 

With the signing of the Lisbon Treaty profound convergences of opinion emerged among the most authoritative figures of Italian politics. The President of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, expressed Italy’s full support to the Slovenian presidency of the EU, especially as concern the quick ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.  Deep relief could be sensed in the words of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who hopes that the ratification process will be completed by spring 2009, before the European Parliament elections. Referring to the 2005 referenda in France and the Netherlands, Romano Prodi said that ''two years ago Europe faced a complete tragedy''. ''Since then unity has been gradually rebuilt and now we can get moving again''. The Italian Premier, who was president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, admitted that the Lisbon Treaty was less decisive than Italy would have liked but, he said, it was ''the best we could get'' in the these circumstances because ''it allows the possibility of real progress towards a politically strong Europe in the near future''.  The enthusiastic judgment on the new agreement pronounced by Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Massimo D’Alema goes in the same direction: he expressed his wish to have the treaty approved by both houses of parliament by the end of 2008 at the latest. This, according to Massimo D'Alema, could act as a catalyst for other states that are going to seek parliamentary ratification or hold referenda. According to Umberto Ranieri, Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of the Lower House of the Italian Parliament, if both Italy and the EU do not succeed in moving very soon to ratify the treaty, the stalemate Brussels might face will be both inevitable and very quick. Umberto Ranieri stressed the need for the Italian government to play an active role in promoting the many positive aspects of this treaty among the public opinion. If ratified, this treaty could represent an indispensable condition for relaunching the European project. He also said the ratification should be completed by January 1st 2009, so that the new rules can apply to the appointment of a new Commission and European Parliament elections in that year.  For the sake of the European project, another failure, after the failed ratifications of the now defunct constitutional treaty in two member states in 2005, would cause a serious political crisis. For Rocco Cangelosi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the European Union, Brussels cannot afford to experience again the same torpor it sank into on the morrow of the double French-Dutch ‘No’. Rather than risking the possibility that the new document might not come into force because one of the EU's 27 member states fails to ratify it, the European Union should provide countries with a chance to opt out from the treaty itself.

Reactions to the establishment of a 'Committee of the Wise'

With regard to the creation of a committee of wise men put forward by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in August 2007 to consider the Union's future, some press has focused on the fact that, as originally formulated, Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal was probably meant to negatively interfere with the accession process of Turkey to the EU.  Another issue raised in some newspapers concerns the mandate of the Committee. What has been stressed is that the reflection group, which is expected to present its findings in spring 2010, will deal with a range of long-term issues, but specifically will be barred from meddling with institutional reforms. Among the highly respected personalities that would be mandated to address the future of the European Union until the year 2030, Alessandro Profumo, CEO of the Unicredit Group, Italy's major banking group, and Giuliano Amato, Italian politician who was Vice President of the Convention on the Future of Europe, have been mentioned as possible Italian candidates for the group.