Inclusive attitude towards possible new members

In the Italian debate, it is common opinion that Croatia and Macedonia are the best candidates to enter the EU in the next enlargement round. In this regard, comments are usually positive. Indeed, the national political establishment has traditionally supported the access of the Balkan countries to the EU. In the words of Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, Croatia and Macedonia have both overcome several obstacles, and it seems legitimate to imagine Zagreb in the EU in the course of 2011.11Franco Frattini: Intervento del Ministro Franco Frattini all’International Desk Forum sugli “Scenari di sviluppo dell’Area Adriatico-Balcanica”, Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2010/03/20100308_InternationalDesk.htm (last access: 21 April 2010). The same opinion is expressed by the research community, which noticed how the recent election of Ivo Josipović as Croatian President substantially increased the odds of the country joining the EU.22Giovanna Casa: La Croazia più vicina all’UE dopo la vittoria di Josipovic, AffarInternazionali, 13 January 2010, available at: http://www.affarinternazionali.it/articolo.asp?ID=1363 (last access: 21 April 2010).

The case of Macedonia appears more problematic. The Italian government is striving to push Brussels to open negotiations as soon as possible, leaving aside the thorny debate with Greece over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic.33Franco Frattini: Intervento del Ministro Franco Frattini all’International Desk Forum su gli “Scenari di sviluppo dell’Area Adriaico-Balcanica”, Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2010/03/20100308_InternationalDesk.htm (last access: 21 April 2010).

The forthcoming European membership of both Croatia and Macedonia are thus considered with favour by the Italian political parties and public opinion. As reported in the National Strategic Concept of the Ministry of Defense, the reason is manly geostrategic.44Il Concetto Strategico del Capo di Stato Maggiore della Difesa, Ministero della Difesa, available at: http://www.difesa.it/NR/rdonlyres/7CF00FEA-D74E-4533-B3ED-9CCCD8B79E89/0/libroconcettostrategico.pdf (last access: 21 April 2010). This approach is therefore likely to remain consistent in the near future, concerning the whole Balkan area.

The inclusive attitude towards possible new European member states is maintained by Italy also in regard of other, more problematic, candidates. Montenegro, Albania and Serbia are all examples of this state of affairs. Although there are still concerns about their political/economic performance, the Italian government and the Foreign Minister Frattini have demanded a rapid solution concerning their admission requests, raising their chances to join the EU significantly.55Franco Frattini: Intervento del Ministro Franco Frattini all’International Desk Forum su gli “Scenari di sviluppo dell’Area Adriatico-Balcanica”, Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2010/03/20100308_InternationalDesk.htm (last access: 21 April 2010); Michele Comelli/Raffaello Matarazzo: L’Unione Europea ed il ruolo dell’Italia, in: Gianni Bonvicini/Alessandro Colombo (eds.): La politica estera italiana, Il Mulino 2010, p. 107.

The case of Kosovo appears, however, to be more complex. Diplomatic divisions over its fresh independence still persist in Europe, and a solution seems improbable in the short term.66Pietro Paolo Proto: La tormentata strada del Kosovo verso l’UE, AffarInternazionali, 16 February 2010, available at: http://www.affarinternazionali.it/articolo.asp?ID=1394 (last access: 21 April 2010). Nevertheless, Frattini recently stated that Kosovo has a European future, acknowledging at the same time the need for a more balanced rule of law system in the country.77ASCA: La Croazia nell’UE entro il 2011, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.asca.it/news-BALCANI__FRATTINI__LA_CROAZIA_NELL_UE_ENTRO_IL_2011-899905-ORA-.html (last access: 21 April 2010). The same position is also maintained on the European future of Serbia, for which Prime Minister Berlusconi hoped a rapid admission into the EU.88Il Foglio: L’Europa si apre alla Serbia e la Serbia si apre all’Europa, 18 December 2009, available at: http://www.ilfoglio.it/soloqui/4077 (last access: 21 April 2010).

Interestingly enough, however, the last available Eurobarometer shows that the Italian public, thinking that the EU has enlarged too rapidly in recent years, remains against new enlargement rounds.99Eurobarometro: Rapporto Nazionale Italia, Eurobarometro n.72, Autumn 2009, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb72/eb72_it_it_nat.pdf (last access: 4 May 2010).

In addition, it is important to underline here the Italian position regarding the controversial candidature of Turkey. Although the issue remains divisive at the national political level, the government recently restated its support to an eventual entrance of Turkey into the EU.1010La Stampa: La UE resta scettica sull’adesione, 23 February 2010, available at: http://archivio.lastampa.it/LaStampaArchivio/main/History/tmpl_viewObj.jsp?objid=10220436 (last access: 21 April 2010).

The Mediterranean Sea is an important geostrategic region for Italy. This interest was recently restated when Foreign Minister Frattini called, in an article appearing in one of the most important national newspapers, for the creation of an economic community in the Mediterranean, able to mirror the European project and further the creation of future common values and political stability.1111Franco Frattini: Mediterraneo e svolte: serve un authority, Corriere della Sera, 5 February 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interviste/2010/02/20100205_Frattinitrieste.htm?LANG=IT (last access: 22 April 2010). Therefore, Italian support for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) seems rather natural. Even if the project is going through a phase of deep reflection, the Italian government renewed during a meeting with the French President Sarkozy its support for the UfM and its will to working for the successful implementation of its activities.1212Ministero degli Affari Esteri: Vertice Italo-Francese, 9 April 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Approfondimenti/2010/04/20100409_Vertice_ItaliaFrancia.htm (last access: 22 April 2010).

Uneasiness towards the poor results of the initiative has been expressed by the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano, who highlighted that its unexpressed potentialities continue to prevail over tangible results.1313L’Unione Sarda: Mediterraneo, Napolitano: l’Europa deve fare di più, 26 January 2010, available at: http://unionesarda.ilsole24ore.com/Articoli/Articolo/165428 (last access: 22 April 2010). Moreover, the Italian research community also expressed scepticism, noting how the UfM continues to exist only on paper, far away from the goal included in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of the creation of a free-trade area in the Mediterranean.1414Aspen Institute: Back to the fertile crescent, 6 March 2010, available at: http://www.aspeninstitute.it/aspen/?q=ev/AspenEuropeanDialogue_10 (last access: 22 April 2010). The upcoming conference in Barcelona, scheduled for June 2010, will probably give more information regarding these difficulties and the future of the UfM, although the usual contrasts between Israel and Arab countries risk to frustrate any potential improvement.

On the other hand, less interest has been expressed on the Eastern Partnership. Indeed, the subject has been somewhat sidelined by the Italian press and public debate, and few declarations have been made by the Foreign Minister Frattini. During a meeting with his Moldavian counterpart, Frattini reaffirmed Italy’s great interest in the Eastern Partnership, hoping to transform this cooperation tool through several association agreements with the Caucasian countries, which had been previously done with Moldova and Ukraine.1515Il Piccolo: Frattini-Leanca ‘Moldova a un passo dall’UE’, 26 February 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interviste/2010/02/20100226_MoldovaaunpassodallUE.htm (last access: 22 April 2010). The same position had been maintained before in regard of Belarus.1616Il Messaggero: Nella UE ci può essere posto anche per la Bielorussia, 29 September 2009, available at: http://www.esteri.gov.it/MAE/Templates/IntervIntervTemplate.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7B773A0E29-DD83-46C6-B7D7-6B037B5362DD%7D&NRORIGINALURL=%2FMAE%2FIT%2FSala_Stampa%2FArchivioNotizie%2FInterviste%2F2009%2F09%2F20090929_Frattini_Bielorussia.htm&NRCACHEHINT=Guest (last access: 22 April 2010).

For its part, some members of the Italian research community preferred to highlight the weak influence the Eastern Partnership has on several latent conflicts in its geographical area. In this regard, the foundation of a stronger cooperation between Brussels and Moscow is ultimately suggested as a possible way forward. The role for Italy is to favour this complicated political dialogue with Russia, and assess whether the role of non-governmental actors within the Eastern Partnership is possible.1717Osservatorio di Politica Internazionale: Il Partenariato Orientale dell’UE tra debolezze e potenzialità, Senato della Repubblica, December 2009, available at: http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/Approfondimento_%20Partenariato%20Orientale.pdf (last access: 4 May 2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1Franco Frattini: Intervento del Ministro Franco Frattini all’International Desk Forum sugli “Scenari di sviluppo dell’Area Adriatico-Balcanica”, Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2010/03/20100308_InternationalDesk.htm (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 2Giovanna Casa: La Croazia più vicina all’UE dopo la vittoria di Josipovic, AffarInternazionali, 13 January 2010, available at: http://www.affarinternazionali.it/articolo.asp?ID=1363 (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 3Franco Frattini: Intervento del Ministro Franco Frattini all’International Desk Forum su gli “Scenari di sviluppo dell’Area Adriaico-Balcanica”, Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2010/03/20100308_InternationalDesk.htm (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 4Il Concetto Strategico del Capo di Stato Maggiore della Difesa, Ministero della Difesa, available at: http://www.difesa.it/NR/rdonlyres/7CF00FEA-D74E-4533-B3ED-9CCCD8B79E89/0/libroconcettostrategico.pdf (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 5Franco Frattini: Intervento del Ministro Franco Frattini all’International Desk Forum su gli “Scenari di sviluppo dell’Area Adriatico-Balcanica”, Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2010/03/20100308_InternationalDesk.htm (last access: 21 April 2010); Michele Comelli/Raffaello Matarazzo: L’Unione Europea ed il ruolo dell’Italia, in: Gianni Bonvicini/Alessandro Colombo (eds.): La politica estera italiana, Il Mulino 2010, p. 107.
  • 6Pietro Paolo Proto: La tormentata strada del Kosovo verso l’UE, AffarInternazionali, 16 February 2010, available at: http://www.affarinternazionali.it/articolo.asp?ID=1394 (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 7ASCA: La Croazia nell’UE entro il 2011, 8 March 2010, available at: http://www.asca.it/news-BALCANI__FRATTINI__LA_CROAZIA_NELL_UE_ENTRO_IL_2011-899905-ORA-.html (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 8Il Foglio: L’Europa si apre alla Serbia e la Serbia si apre all’Europa, 18 December 2009, available at: http://www.ilfoglio.it/soloqui/4077 (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 9Eurobarometro: Rapporto Nazionale Italia, Eurobarometro n.72, Autumn 2009, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb72/eb72_it_it_nat.pdf (last access: 4 May 2010).
  • 10La Stampa: La UE resta scettica sull’adesione, 23 February 2010, available at: http://archivio.lastampa.it/LaStampaArchivio/main/History/tmpl_viewObj.jsp?objid=10220436 (last access: 21 April 2010).
  • 11Franco Frattini: Mediterraneo e svolte: serve un authority, Corriere della Sera, 5 February 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interviste/2010/02/20100205_Frattinitrieste.htm?LANG=IT (last access: 22 April 2010).
  • 12Ministero degli Affari Esteri: Vertice Italo-Francese, 9 April 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Approfondimenti/2010/04/20100409_Vertice_ItaliaFrancia.htm (last access: 22 April 2010).
  • 13L’Unione Sarda: Mediterraneo, Napolitano: l’Europa deve fare di più, 26 January 2010, available at: http://unionesarda.ilsole24ore.com/Articoli/Articolo/165428 (last access: 22 April 2010).
  • 14Aspen Institute: Back to the fertile crescent, 6 March 2010, available at: http://www.aspeninstitute.it/aspen/?q=ev/AspenEuropeanDialogue_10 (last access: 22 April 2010).
  • 15Il Piccolo: Frattini-Leanca ‘Moldova a un passo dall’UE’, 26 February 2010, available at: http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interviste/2010/02/20100226_MoldovaaunpassodallUE.htm (last access: 22 April 2010).
  • 16Il Messaggero: Nella UE ci può essere posto anche per la Bielorussia, 29 September 2009, available at: http://www.esteri.gov.it/MAE/Templates/IntervIntervTemplate.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7B773A0E29-DD83-46C6-B7D7-6B037B5362DD%7D&NRORIGINALURL=%2FMAE%2FIT%2FSala_Stampa%2FArchivioNotizie%2FInterviste%2F2009%2F09%2F20090929_Frattini_Bielorussia.htm&NRCACHEHINT=Guest (last access: 22 April 2010).
  • 17Osservatorio di Politica Internazionale: Il Partenariato Orientale dell’UE tra debolezze e potenzialità, Senato della Repubblica, December 2009, available at: http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/Approfondimento_%20Partenariato%20Orientale.pdf (last access: 4 May 2010).

The reports focus on a reporting period from December 2009 until May 2010. This survey was conducted on the basis of a questionnaire that has been elaborated in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were delivered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives significant funding from the Otto Wolff-Foundation, Cologne, in the framework of the ‘Dialog Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and financial support from the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.