Structural weakness of the European Neighbourhood Policy, strong and balanced relationship with Russia needed

Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali
 
In Italy, the issue of the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the enlargement of the EU is not of high salience as other European matters and therefore it has been debated much more at the level of think tanks and political elites than at the public opinion one.
 
Antonio Missiroli, director of studies at the “European Policy Centre”, believes that, after the Georgian crisis, the current ENP rationale is probably not adequate to meet the new challenges in this region.[1] In his opinion, this is due to the fact that the ENP still suffers from three “structural weaknesses”: “it is neither enlargement nor foreign policy proper, and cannot therefore bring to bear all the tools of either; it is seriously under-resourced and over-reflective of the EU self-interest, so that there is too little in it for the neighbours; and it continues to constitute a catalyst for the different geopolitical priorities of the 27, thus generating permanent internal tensions and, occasionally, even paralysis”[2].
 

Sarkozy’s combination of activism and pragmatism, concerns about Czech Presidency

Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali
 
Concerning the French Presidency, both Italian politicians and public opinion seem to agree that it was helpful to have such strong leadership in the past six months in which the EU, like other international actors, faced many challenges. As representatives of the press noted, the French Presidency semester took place in a very difficult moment for both Europe and the world: it started just after the Irish ‘No’ to the Treaty of Lisbon, it had to deal with the crisis in Georgia and, finally, it went through the global financial crisis.
 
Given all these difficulties, Italians generally have a positive judgement of Sarkozy and the way he acted as the ‘EU-President’. As Franco Venturini affirmed in an article published by the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”, “in a crescendo of initiatives, Sarkozy is shaping a Europe that others had in mind, but that nobody dared bring to light”[1]. Even if the press often speaks of Sarkozy as a “hyperactive” politician, “not inclined to consult with others”[2], who behaves with great “ambition and presidentialism”[3], everybody seems to agree that this kind of behaviour is justified in light of the results of his policies.[4]
 

A year of uncertainties brings the need to connect with the new dynamic areas of the world

Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali
 
In the last months, many opinions have been expressed in Italy on the way the European Union intervened in reaction to the financial crisis. In this context, the expectations towards the EU are quite high, since it is common opinion that nowadays “the globalised market is too complex to be managed at a domestic and national level”[1] and therefore there is great confidence in the role that Europe can play in the hard times we are going through. In this regard, it has been noted that, after the initiatives undertaken by the European institutions to face the financial crisis, “the public opinion may have a different perception, a more positive one, of the role that the Union can play”[2].
 

Beginning of a new era in international relations

Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali
 
At present, both the Italian public opinion and the political elite seem to be thinking that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States will lead to a change in the EU-US relationship. In any case, many commentators share the opinion that, in order to have a real turning point in transatlantic relations it will be necessary for both the US and the EU to address some priorities which, once dealt with, will open the way to a revitalised partnership. This will not be an easy task, since, as an Italian journalist noted, “the new US President will deal with a Europe which is different from that of eight years ago, when George W. Bush was elected: it is a Europe that is closer to the US as a political and institutional subject, but that has moved farther away at the level of public opinion”[1].
 

Linkage between European citizens and EU institutions has to be restored

Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali

The Conclusions of December 2008 European Council on the fate of the Lisbon Treaty
 
In Italy, the reactions to the European Council of December 2008 have been quite positive at the political level. The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, affirmed that it was a success for the European Council to reject the Irish request for a new ratification process from all EU member states. In his opinion, the Brussels Summit proved very useful for finding a compromise on this difficult issue since it “worked hard to give Ireland the possibility to hold a new referendum on the treaty”[1]. For this purpose, he said the EU had to “accept some conditions” such as maintaining a 27-member Commission, allowing the non participation of Ireland in the EU military missions and giving it some assurances on ethical matters and family law.[2]