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EU politics: no help from the Italians

2014-05-10 06:37:05

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Picking up from where Barroso left off, the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has made an "unprecedented speech" outlining his vision for Europe.

Speaking at the State of the Union in Florence, he was launching an appeal to convince European leaders to show "not in the cold language of technocracy, that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to solve the problems of our time".

With that, he called for "courageous leaders" to work towards a United States of Europe, declaring, "For my children’s future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe".

In outlining his vision, Renzi also mapped out the priorities for the Italian presidency of the EU, starting on the 1st of July. Beginning with the European elections, which "for the first time" are set not as "a summation of election campaigns, but something broader", he warned against the spectre of anti-European populism.

All mainstream political forces, he says, should not be scared to talk out loud, and point to the different line-ups that those populist parties have in terms of history and culture, and the way they are united by the desire to destroy what we have built. "Populism will thrive on abstentionism", Renzi said.

The only effective response, according to the prime minister, is to offer "an idea of Europe that corresponds to an attractive adventure, rather than just a financial or economic exercise," showing that the EU "is not only a common past but a common destiny, to which it is impossible to escape".

At the end of his speech, Renzi highlighted immigration as a top priority: "The economy of trade cannot close in fences and cause us to lose sight of the fundamental value of openness in the world, which calls for a redefinition of the concept of the borders, especially those in the Mediterranean", he said.

"Is the Mediterranean an Italian or European border?", he then asked, agreeing with the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem, for whom asylum rights should be under European law and not just a national competence.

"No day in our presidency will pass without us showing the contrast between a Europe that affirms its values, and a Europe that could not practice them, when it denies the possibility to our brothers and sisters to be welcomed in all the EU", said Renzi.

And there we have monster-speak in all its glory. This is one of the hurdles that Cameron would have to overcome if he was actually going to renegotiate our relationship with the EU – in which there are 28 member states including the UK.

Renzi, in this context is a particularly good example of the federalist tendency which drives European integration. And no amount of wishful thinking is going make him roll over and welcome Cameronian attempts to halt the march of "ever closer union".

When the Six in 1957 committed to "ever closer union", they meant it, and they mean it now. There is only one way for the UK to go – Article 50 and the exit door. Anything else is delusion.