Italy's Bent for Europe

By Stefania Fidanza, Liceo Scientifico "Ruffini" Civita Castellana, ITALY, 1997

(English translation by Barbara Buddeke of Accademia Farnese, Caprarola (VT), ITALY)

Contribution to the EDUVINET "European Identity" subject

In order to understand the peculiar Italian situation, as well as the reasons for its quite fideistic adhesion to Europe's creed, we should briefly outline the historical events of our country, particularly referring to the last century. Infact, unlike most European states, where unification and state's formation dates back to the end of the Middle Ages (with the significant exception of Germany that, although uniting in 1870 only, had formerly acquired homogeneous cultural features), the Italian State arose in 1861/70 only, thus it is one of the youngest in the Continent.

Although it is marked by a centuries-old regionalist tradition, that dramatically seems to come out again in the last few years on quite different grounds, Italy has always shown its interest in Europe ever since times past, and has made of it one of the main points of its policy. We will try to single out the reasons for such an approach.

As they were aware of the great unifying value of their cultural message, Italian intellectuals referred to Europe, that they feared being cut out of. The father of federalist State's concept, Carlo Cattaneo, said: "We are firmly convinced, though, that Italy should be in agreement with Europe, and cherish no other national feeling than occupying a noble rank in the scientific union of Europe and of the world. Peoples should model themselves on each other, as the interests of civilization are solid and common; because science is one, nature is one, glory is one". G. Mazzini established the "Young Europe" as well as the "Young Italy" association, founded on the co-operation and aspiration after freedom of European peoples, as an expression of equal powers among equals.

In both cases, the notion of Europe is more a cultural than a political one, regarding the common feeling of being European, as against other civilizations.

The needs expressed by the political class were quite different, as they saw Europe as a stage where Italy's role of power could be shown, rather than being a way to look for an enlarged identity.

Actually, both positions had a significant common point, i.e. the need for national unification as a propelling element towards Europe, able to overcome the limits implied in Metternich's phrase, referring to Italy as a mere geographical expression.

The reaching of national unification, thanks to Risorgimento-wars and to the participating of Savoy state in the Crimean war (1855), empowered the resulting monarchic state to claim a political role of its own as an equal power in the union of the nations. Nevertheless, the lack of a real social and economic unification dramatically stressed the gap between Italy and other European states, thus leading to a discrepancy between the political trends of governers, and the intellectuals' concept of State. These saw Europe as a yardstick, unreachable for Italy among other things, as the nation was tremendously underdeveloped in the field of industry and infrastructures. The industrial middle class itself, now fearing to be left out of Europe, was then urging for industrialization according to a European model, but envisaging a protectionist policy. Governments were pushed to ally with Austria and Germany against France, due to the boost given to industrialization on one hand, and to the unsuccessful attempt to make Italy a colonial power, on the other.

The burst of World War I stressed the weakness of Risorgimento- state, both on the political standpoint, and as to the citizens' identification in State. It is no accident that in Italy anti- interventionist movements - and especially socialist groups - tried to hamper entrance into war in the name of internationalism and brotherhood among the exploited people.

The coming to the power of fascism (1922) and its policy aimed for two decades at establishing a concept of nation and people stemming from the glory of Rome and looking at the rest of Europe with self-conceit: just take for example the attempts of autarky and the attitude to England, called the treacherous Albion. Actually, Mussolini tended to be a balancing element for Europe mostly vis-à-vis of Nazism, with which he came to terms, after a period of contrasts, and entered into a Pact of Steel. Far from being a support to Europe's political unity, such an agreement was meant to lead its contracting parties to become the rulers of Europe. The alliance was founded on a common feeling, i.e. the German people was the Chosen one, thus it had the right of sway; on the other hand, the Italian people was supposed to have a historical and cultural background of its own that was to have lead to a political, if not economical supremacy. This is the reason why the statement expressed by a few anti-fascists like Gobetti, Croce, Omodeo, and Salvatorelli, that fascism had cut Italy out of the European civilization values, is absolutely warranted.

By the World War II, not only the dreams of power, but also the idea of monarchic Risorgimento-state were swept away. The need for a new kind of state, a really unitary one, arose. The first step for it was the Monarchy-Republic referendum held in 1946.

Apart from wiping out all the remnants of nineteenth century from the European and world scene, the Second World War also opened new supernational prospects, with the absolute novelty of Europe's political and economic unity.

Undoubtedly, not only did the founding countries play a fundamental role, but Italy in particular showed a strong mobilization towards it, and seemed scantly affected by domestic requirements, as mentioned in Einaudi's speech to the Constituent Assembly for the ratification of the peace treaty, as well as in De Gasperi's commitment in favour of article art. 38, laying the foundations for political unification; another example is given by the European Federalist Movement founded by Altiero Spinelli and Rossi.

The crisis of national states, at least in the form of their conception up until 1945, added to a quite expected emergency: the rise of two blocks, the Western and Eastern ones, that not only were unable to interact, but also faced each other. Probably, Europe has paid the highest toll for it. Nevertheless, the early unification was spurred by the need for clear-cut choices.

The first group of 16 associated states was infact linked to Marshall plan aid, and was essentially influenced by economic and defensive reasons. This was followed by a series of agreements involving fewer states (i.e. 6) that gave rise to O.E.E.C. (Organization for European Economic Co-operation) in 1948, that laid the foundations for the rise of a European common assembly; to E.C.S.C., European Coal and Steel Community, in 1951; and to E.D.C., European Defence Community, in 1952. The nature of the first and second agreements was essentially economical, whereas E.D.C. stemmed from defence needs and has never been ratified neither by Italy nor by France, both engaged in domestic and foreign problems. Nevertheless, it is particularly significant because, just upon De Gasperi's suggestion, it laid the foundations for the creation of an actual community of states, in compliance with art. 38. On that occasion, De Gasperi espoused Spinelli's federalist cause and Einaudi's super-national notion. The Fifties witnessed a stronger committment to get the foundations of Europe done, thanks to the Conferences of Messina and Venice, and to the Treaty of Rome (1957) that established EEC and E.A.E.C. (European Atomic Energy Community). From then on, steps got quicker and became increasingly precise. The Community passed from the six founding states to the present ... and, despite many difficulties, launched monetary unification process, that is scheduled to start in 1999 with quite many hindrances. Supposedly, the main problem lies in a deep difference of opinions regarding the prospective leadership, rather than in actual facts and circumstances, thus bringing back the European issue to the fore, not in terms of nations, but in terms of weak vs. strong states.

In this connection, we reckon that it may be useful to outline the ideas and facts promoted by in the course of Europe's constitution process.

First and foremost, note should be taken of the fact that there are essentially three kinds of approach to European unification, and namely:

a) confederative or unionist;

b) functionalist;

c) federalist.

The first system suggested to meet the needs for co-ordination and co-operation felt by European countries more flexibly than federalism, thus allowing Governments to keep control of common institutions without actually losing sovereignty.

The functionalist formula was based on the method of "sector integration", and claimed that economic integration would be bound to imply political unification. In Spinelli's words, both systems negated the supremacy of policy and mistook the executive efficiency of administrative power for the creativity of political power. As a matter of fact, they both got round the problem of limiting national sovereignties, that were instead seen as the real impediment to overcome in order to get to actual unification. In Spinelli's opinion, that was not to be seen as a goal, but as a starting point to reach the ultimate end: i.e. the construction of a global federation.

At least in Sergio Romano's opinion, Europe's Italian fathers are mainly four: i.e. Luigi Einaudi, Carlo Sforza, Alcide de Gasperi, and Altiero Spinelli. To Romano, Italian ruling class saw the idea of Europe as a political asset, that not only fathers, but also their followers made use of to acquire democratic reliability, just as the left did after losing the hope of socialism coming to power. The same may be said for the "Europeanist-oriented" change of mind by industrialists, who "manufacture for Europe and have accepted both unique market and Maastrich treaty as necessary prospects they should adjust to at their best".

Einaudi and Sforza became supporters of Europeanism as soon as they realized the failure of Risorgimento-state, and felt that Italy badly and urgently needed a new mission to justify its very existance. In 1947, on the occasion of a lecture given at the University of Perugia, Sforza claimed that to Italian diplomacy, European Unit would correspond to the principle of Legitimacy to Taillerand. Going as far as citing Mazzini, he also attempted to show that by Europe, Italy was going back to its initial aspiration: to him, the United States of Europe were the achievement of the ideal Risorgimento-aim, of which Italy was to be the forerunner according to the principle of legitimacy he had set forth by Perugia lecture.

In a speech on July 29, 1947, during the debate on peace treaty ratification, Einaudi stated again the need for federal union of states, as he had already expressed as early as in 1918. He explained both world wars as attempts to solve the problem of European unification through violence, and claimed that their cause was in the contrast between the essentially supernational nature of production-process, all the aspects of human conduct connected to it, both directly and indirectly, and the national scope of state organization. Romano assumes that Einaudi's point of view was as "national-oriented" as Croce's. The latter voted against ratification, only as he intended to turn a new leaf as fast and "radically" as possible.

De Gasperi pragmatically shared Sforza's political scheme, in that the union of european peoples within Marshall plan was his most effective argument from 1947 to '49 to convince his party- fellows on the validity of western choice and "smuggle in" the military pact that was to oppose against imperial goals of Soviet policy.

Nevertheless, his attitude was a highly constructive one, since he acted by force to let art. 38 in the treaty of E.D.C., that federalists had fought for. In force of that article, partners engaged themselves to create a European democratic authority on a parliamentary, and not on a diplomatic level. As an example, we may cite a particularly interesting meeting of six foreign affairs ministers of European army conference, on Dec. 11, 1951, an introductory step to the establishment of E.D.C.

Spinelli's federalist idea started to spread among the european resistance movements, during the fight to Nazi-fascism. As early as in 1944, in Geneva, and in 1945, in Paris, a group of French and Italian federalists started to gather around Spinelli. As early as in 1938, during his forced residence at Ventotene, he had written the Manifesto per un'Europa libera ed unita with Ernesto Rossi, a document by which the movement for european federation has started. In 1943, he established MFE (European Federalist Movement), that inspired to Einaudi's theories and to the British prewar federalist school of thought.

The core of Spinelli's notion is in the principle of national sovereignty limitation and in the transfer of sovereignty itself to a superior political authority, i.e. a european constituent assembly that was to have taken european construction away from diplomacy. His federalist idea was also shared by many political and cultural celebrities, but in the general opinion the plan was not seen as one liable to be immediately and actually carried out by any political force.

When cold war came to a head, the idea of a divided Europe became fixed and immovable and the support of Europeanism was the equivalent of a Western orientation. Spinelli emphasized that such a choice could be used as a support to the construction of Europe. Starting from 1948, Italian federalists tried to steer several pro-European associations (such as Movimento Europeo and Unione Europea dei federalisti) to the convocation of a Constituent assembly. This idea was not successful, even within the federalist movement, as the constitutionalist idea clashed to the current of integral federalism, that gave priority to the social and economic aspects of federalist reformation.

E.C.S.C., the first special Community, arose on May 1950, on the initiative of Jean Monnet, who not only aimed at an economic agreement, but also at the progression to a European government.

According to Spinelli, the issue of Germany rearming was liable to open a process that surpassed special communities, as it could be solved within Europe through the political integration among the countries of Smaller Europe. Federalists managed to get art.38 of E.D.C. treaty removed and to establish an ad hoc Assembly liable to lead to political union. It was immediately clear, though, that Smaller Europe member countries had seen it as a detour to avoid the key-problem of German membership to the Western federalist system.

Federalists have been bitterly disappointed by the troubled stages to the rise of a Constituent Assembly, that Spinelli saw somewhat as the demiurgic beginning of novelty, neglecting the need for a political and economic transformation of all states. Actually, the formula that turned out to be the winner was to manage economic interdependence through common institutions. This approach proved the federalists' point wrong, one that claimed economic interests were not liable to gather around communities or that these would not reach political unity from within.

The establishment of the Club du cocodrile, started by Spinelli to lead European Parliament to become a constituent institution, turned out to be a success, too. Infact, the first period of office of the elected parliament (2.14.1984) ended with the approval by a large majority of a treaty for European unit. Nevertheless, the document lost much of its importance on account of the scant willingness of national governments to have the project ratified by parliaments.

Probably, the constituent strategy vanished with Spinelli's death; the European parliament itself has taken on a softer attitude about institutional issues.

It remains to be explained why Italy is the most enthustiastic supporter of Europe, and the most skeptical at the same time; the most daring in declarations and creed, and yet the slowest to apply EEC regulations. After the failure of Risorgimento-state, with severe financial aftermath; the collapse of populist state attempted in the Seventies by the left; the miscarriage of Italian-made socialism planned by Craxi-followers, the leaning of Italians regarding Europe may be divided into two great categories. First, there is the attitude of those who are aware that, after the failure of Southern-oriented policy, Italy would not be able to survive without Europe and would almost risk sinking into the Mediterranean sea. This is a position mainly shared by entrepreneurs. On the other hand, some other people believe in Europe, but just as one of the many distant powers that have been studding our history.

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