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

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].

More­over, accord­ing to some ana­lysts, the con­flict in the Cau­ca­sus, notwith­stand­ing the key role played by Nico­las Sarkozy and the EU, had the effect of weak­en­ing the Euro­pean Union’s links with Georgia.[3] Accord­ing to Andrea Carte­ny, Ital­ian exec­u­tive direc­tor of the “Italy-Ruman­ian Insti­tute of His­tor­i­cal Stud­ies” of the Babeş-Bolyai Uni­ver­si­ty, the Geor­gian gov­ern­ment now seems much more ori­ent­ed towards a ‘priv­i­leged axes’ with Wash­ing­ton and mem­ber­ship in NATO than in the Euro­pean Union.[4] Oth­er Ital­ian observers have sug­gest­ed that Georgia’s inclu­sion in NATO should be nei­ther accel­er­at­ed nor slowed down by the events of the last sum­mer, but should still be based instead on objec­tive cri­te­ria, which should nev­er be put into ques­tion by con­tin­gent circumstances.[5]

It is a wide­ly shared opin­ion that, in order to bet­ter define the future of the ENP and enlarge­ment, a top pri­or­i­ty for the EU should be to estab­lish a bal­anced rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia. As Ettore Gre­co, direc­tor of the “Inter­na­tion­al Affairs Insti­tute”, stat­ed in a speech held dur­ing a meet­ing of the Italy-Rus­sia com­mit­tee of the Ital­ian parliament’s “Cam­era dei dep­u­tati”, “one of the most impor­tant lessons learnt from the last sum­mer cri­sis is that it is nec­es­sary to work for a joint solu­tion of the polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty prob­lems which affect EU and Russia’s com­mon neighbourhood”[6]. In fact, accord­ing to some Ital­ian ana­lysts, the con­flict in the Cau­ca­sus revealed “how much the Euro­pean neigh­bour­hood is insecure”[7] and there­fore showed the impor­tance of an open pol­i­cy towards Rus­sia, instead of an antag­o­nis­tic approach that would only be armful.

As some Ital­ian observers under­lined, the con­flict in Geor­gia also had the effect of accel­er­at­ing the project of East­ern Part­ner­ship pro­mot­ed by Swe­den and Poland to strength­en the rela­tion­ship with the EU’s East­ern neighbours.[8] From the Ital­ian point of view, this is a pos­i­tive and ambi­tious project that nonethe­less, needs to be bal­anced by the pro­mo­tion of oth­er Euro­pean part­ner­ships; for this rea­son, Italy still sup­ports the Union for the Mediter­ranean. Accord­ing to Michele Comel­li of the “Inter­na­tion­al Affairs Insti­tute”, “it is impor­tant for the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy frame­work to keep togeth­er at a lev­el of prin­ci­ples both the East­ern and South­ern neigh­bours, even if the poli­cies towards the two dif­fer­ent regions are nec­es­sar­i­ly differentiated”[9]. Italy is very inter­est­ed in the devel­op­ment of the ENP, but it is impor­tant to guar­an­tee “con­sis­ten­cy between the ENP and the oth­er strate­gies that the EU is under­tak­ing in the same region (ener­gy, migra­tions, EU/Africa)”[10].

When dis­cussing the Euro­pean Union’s enlarge­ment after the Geor­gian cri­sis, anoth­er impor­tant ele­ment tak­en into account by Ital­ian think tanks is the link that con­nects the region of the Cau­ca­sus to Turkey.[11] The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has played an impor­tant role in the post-con­flict phase in this region, by propos­ing a plat­form for sta­bil­i­ty and coop­er­a­tion in the Cau­ca­sus, open to Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Geor­gia and Russia.[12]

Turkey itself is now the oth­er big ques­tion mark in the Ital­ian approach towards the enlarge­ment of the EU. As a recent study by the “Inter­na­tion­al Affairs Insti­tute” under­lined, “Italy’s tra­di­tion­al­ly pos­i­tive atti­tude towards Turkey’s entry into the Euro­pean Union is unlike­ly to reverse in the fore­see­able future”[13]. How­ev­er, even if the prospect of Turkey’s mem­ber­ship has received wide bipar­ti­san sup­port at the polit­i­cal and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty lev­el, the Ital­ian pub­lic opin­ion has usu­al­ly been less favourable toward it, due to its cul­tur­al and reli­gious background.[14] More­over, in the last few months, even the per­spec­tive of the polit­i­cal elite has changed as a con­se­quence of the out­come of the 2008 Ital­ian gen­er­al elec­tions. In fact, the Lega Nord, which is a euroscep­ti­cal and region­al­ist par­ty, obtained a remark­able suc­cess and now con­trols key Min­istries, includ­ing the Min­istry of the Interior.[15] In June 2008, the recent­ly appoint­ed Min­is­ter of the Inte­ri­or, Rober­to Maroni, pre­sent­ed a res­o­lu­tion to the Ital­ian parliament’s “Cam­era dei dep­u­tate” ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to call for an inter­rup­tion of the nego­ti­a­tions on Turk­ish mem­ber­ship and to sup­port, instead, Turkey’s inclu­sion in the Union for the Mediterranean.[16] This atti­tude will prob­a­bly have an impact on the over­all Ital­ian per­cep­tion of Turkey’s entry in the Euro­pean Union.

It may be not­ed from this overview that in Italy the debate on the future of the Euro­pean Union’s enlarge­ment is still con­fined to the intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal lev­el, while the Ital­ian pub­lic opin­ion does not seem to be very informed about it. For this rea­son, Ital­ians’ opin­ions on this issue are some­times influ­enced by prej­u­dices and mis­per­cep­tions. Accord­ing to the last Euro­barom­e­ter 47 per­cent of Ital­ians are in favour of fur­ther enlarge­ment of the EU. When asked to give their opin­ion on sin­gle pos­si­ble new can­di­date states, they were more scep­ti­cal: 58 per­cent are against the inclu­sion of Turkey and more or less the same per­cent­age are opposed to the acces­sion of the Balkan countries.[17]




[1] A. Mis­siroli: The guns of August, EPC Com­men­tary, 4 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[2] Ibid.
[3] A. Carte­ny: Ver­so la Nato, ma a che prez­zo?, Affari Inter­nazion­ali, 24 August 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] Ibid.
[5] E. Alessan­dri: La par­ti­ta a scac­chi con mosca e i prin­cipi dell’ Occi­dente, Affari Inter­nazion­ali 21 August 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[6] E. Gre­co: Il rap­por­to tra la Rus­sia e l’Unione Euro­pea: come rilan­cia­re la coop­er­azione in vista del rin­no­vo dell’accordo di parte­nar­i­a­to, Dis­cor­so tenu­to in occa­sione del­la IX riu­nione del­la grande com­mis­sione Italia-Rus­sia, in: cam­era dei Dep­u­tati, Doc­u­men­ti IAI 0830, Roma, 24/25 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[7] M. Comel­li: Il nuo­vo oriz­zonte ori­en­tale dell’Unione Euro­pea, Affari Inter­nazion­ali, 5 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] G. Bochic­chio: Sta­bil­ità e sicurez­za ai con­fi­ni dell’UE: la Polit­i­ca Euro­pea di Vic­i­na­to, in: Ital­ian­ieu­ropei, 3/2008, p.66.
[11] N. Miche­lidze: Rus­sia e Turchia nel labir­in­to del Cau­ca­so merid­ionale, Affari Inter­nazion­ali, 6 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009); C. Frap­pi: La Turchia e la Piattafor­ma per la Sta­bil­ità e la Coop­er­azione nel Cau­ca­so, ISPI Pol­i­cy Brief 106/2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[12] Ibid.
[13] E. Alessandri/E. Canan: “Mam­ma li turchi!”: just an old Ital­ian say­ing, in: N. Toc­ci (ed.): Talk­ing Turkey in Europe: towards a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy, Quaderni IAI Eng­lish Series, 13/2008, p.11.
[14] Ibid., pp. 11, 28.
[15] Ibid, p.12.
[16] See: Atto Cam­era: Risoluzione, in: Assem­blea 6/00017, Sedu­ta di annun­cio 174, 21 June 2007, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[17] Stan­dard Euro­barom­e­ter 69, Spring 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).