Italy’s European Vocation: The Foreign Policy of the New Prodi Government

Ettore Greco

No one was surprised when Italy’s new President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, made his first major public appearance on May 21 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the death of Altiero Spinelli. Spinelli was an ardent theoretician and tireless promoter of European integration and one of the most venerated icons of European federalists. Italy’s new center-left coalition, which elected Mr. Napolitano on May 10, has made the re-launch of Italy’s role within the EU the centerpiece of its foreign policy program. This European vocation is reflected in the composition of the new cabinet led by Romano Prodi which took office on May 17. It includes several prominent figures on the European stage, including: Minister of Finance Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, a former member of the executive board of the European central bank; Minister of the Interior, Giuliano Amato, who was one of the architects of the EU’s draft constitutional treaty; and the Minister for European Affairs, Emma Bonino, a former European commissioner. With the support of this team, Prodi, who himself was president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, hopes to bring the country back onto the center stage of European politics.

In Prodi’s view, his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, departed from a well-established pro-Europe foreign policy tradition that dates back to Alcide de Gasperi, Italy’s eight-time prime minister in the post-Second War World period. Berlusconi never considered the EU a priority. He preferred to concentrate on consolidating his government’s relationship with the Bush administration as well as on cultivating his personal ties with top world leaders. His center-right government took a lukewarm, and sometimes openly hostile, stance on several proposals to deepen European integration.

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