Italy’s Mission in the U.N.: Remarks by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini, to the Gruppo Esponenti Italiani (GEI) in New York
New York, November 18, 2009.
I could not be more happy to speak about two of the issues we are currently dealing with at the Italian Mission to the United Nations. One of our top concerns in the past year has been Italy’s leadership of the Group of the Eight Most Industrialized Countries, whose work we have tried to correlate more closely with the agenda of the United Nations. The other is the Lisbon Treaty, which enters into force on December 1, and promises to affect the role of the European Union at the United Nations. I promise to be brief.
Let me start with the present. Today is the concluding session of a three-day Summit on food security organized by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The world leaders gathered in Rome have renewed their commitment to eradicate hunger and to promote new investment in agriculture. Italy took advantage of this occasion to host, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a working dinner focused also on another upcoming international meeting, the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change.
I am sure you are all well aware of the various obstacles to reaching a binding global agreement on climate in December. This is unfortunate, especially considering the grave impact that climate change could have on the fight against hunger in the world and on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In the three weeks leading up to Copenhagen, Italy will do its utmost to gain concrete pledges from all countries to finding common ground. This is consistent with the objectives of our Presidency of the G8. At the L’Aquila Summit, the Italian presidency succeeded in obtaining approval of the World Food Security Initiative, and in getting both the developed and the emerging Countries to endorse the objective of limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees centigrade by comparison to 1990 levels.
The L’Aquila Summit was of course dominated by the number one issue on the international agenda this year, the worldwide financial crisis. To address the issue of reforming and regulating the financial markets, Italy launched an initiative on transparency, integrity, and proper functioning in the markets. On the whole, L’Aquila helped set the groundwork for the debate on the reform of the international economic system that was resumed at the G20 in Pittsburg.
The impact of the economic downturn on developing countries and on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals cannot be underestimated. To help curb these effects, the Italian Presidency also organized meetings of the G8 Ministers of Development and Agriculture in the lead-up to L’Aquila, and launched new initiatives in the areas of schooling, water, health care, and the fight against infectious diseases and hunger.
The third big issue at L’Aquila was security, particularly nuclear non-proliferation (especially in Iran and North Korea), counterterrorism, peacekeeping, conflict resolution in regional crises, and fighting piracy. The “global security” agenda of the G8 coincides more and more closely with that of the UN. At the same time we strengthened the partnership between Italy and the United Nations, establishing a close relationship with the Secretary-General, who has been to Italy three times in the past year alone.
Italy’s support for the UN is not mere lip service. We are the sixth top contributor to the regular budget and the top G8 and European contributor of troops and financial resources to UN peacekeeping operations. The largest contingent of the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon is Italian and the commander of the operation is an Italian general. This “boots on the ground” involvement in peacekeeping has shaped our pragmatic and constructive strategy in the G8 framework, which rests on three pillars:
Building an African capacity for crisis management. Through a G8 initiative, Italy has created a Center of Excellence in Vicenza, which to date has trained more than 2,500 foreign police officers, mostly from Africa, to be deployed on peacekeeping operations;
Strengthening the regional dimension, particularly in Africa;
Prioritizing rule of law, justice, and law and order in countries emerging from conflicts.
Let us now take a look at upcoming appointments. On the first of December, the Lisbon Treaty will enter into force. In terms of foreign policy and what the experts call the EU’s “external projection,” nowhere will the Treaty’s effects be more visible than at the United Nations. And the Treaty will indeed change the way the European Union participates in the activities of the United Nations. First and foremost, the EU will no longer be represented in the General Assembly by the rotating President of the Council. A new standing figure, the EU Representative, will do the job. In addition to chairing the coordination meetings of the 27 EU member countries, where the common positions on UN issues are forged and drafted, the Representative will also have the prerogative of taking the floor in the GA on behalf of the 27.
Italy is particularly concerned by the implications of the new rules for the Security Council. Italy has long worked for a more unified European voice within the Council, and during our latest term as a non-permanent member (2007-2008), we tried to promote an “EU use” of our seat, primarily through the creation of a strengthened, standing consultation mechanism with EU countries that were not members of the Council. In the framework of the exercise on Security Council reform, we presented a new proposal last April that calls for the establishment of a seat that would have a longer term than the present two years and be shared, on a rotating basis, between the Western and Eastern European groups. This seat could be the embryo for a future European seat on the Council.
According to the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU Security Council members should request that the EU Representative be invited to participate in meetings on issues of interest to the EU. Although there are differences of interpretation, the Treaty also provides for the Representative to coordinate the positions of the European members of the Council. These new regulations may not be revolutionary but they are a significant step forward in the EU’s presence in the Security Council.
But the biggest step forward that Italy believes we need to take is a reform of the Security Council that would establish a genuine European seat, so that Europe could truly speak with one voice, and realize the quest for a common foreign and security policy.
Whether in our leadership of the G8, our term on the Security Council, or our role as a founding member of the European Union, the vocation of Italy in the international arena is not the realization of national ambitions but rather the achievement of the common good. This is a role that our history, our culture, and our destiny have thrust upon us, and one that we seek to fulfill with dedication, vision, and perspicacity.