European View

Italy needs to move quickly and appoint a new top representative in Brussels or could pay the price

by Adriana Cerretelli

24 Exclusive content for IT24

It’s a fact that the Ministry of Economic Development is crucial in restarting Italy's economy, but so far has not yet played a big role. It's also evident that Carlo Calenda, a top expert and politician who already served as deputy minister of that ministry, is the right man at the right place now that he has been appointed minister.

The doubt, or perhaps a certainty, is a different one: if economic development has and must have a central role in the agenda of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, his government’s relation with Europe is not marginal, and cannot certainly be downplayed as a secondary issue.

The process of legislative integration and its growing presence in the economy, competition, public finance, welfare, society and politics -- basically all the vital parts of the daily life of member states -- make the EU an inevitable and omnipresent reality, which nobody can ignore or take easily.

With an unusual decision , breaking a tradition at the Foreign Ministry existing for over half a century, in December Renzi announced his intention to replace his diplomatic representative in Brussels with a trusted politician, who could make his voice heard even “by beating his fists on the table.”

The move reinforced Italy's intention to re-gain its influence in Europe and defend its national interest, but also to relaunch a collective project plunged in a serious crisis of credibility.

On March 21, Ambassador Stefano Sannino took service in Madrid, leaving the Brussels office to Calenda, who immediately took his mission seriously, delving into difficult topics, mending the ties with European institutions, starting from the European Commission, broken by the verbal attacks of the country's prime minister. The results were positive, given the serene climate established in relations between Rome and Brussels.

Then, after only 47 days, a second unexpected move: Calenda has been called back in Rome and promoted to the role of minister.

There was apparently no alternative figure with the same skills, or perhaps the government preferred to play a safe card rather than betting on uncertainty, given the importance of the assignment and the renown professionalism of the new minister.

However, the double surprise move, that in less than two months has seen our representative in Brussels change, is not good for the already clouded image of Italy in Europe, let alone to the consistency of the country's ambitious European policy.

Especially when the government has several dossiers open with Brussels: from the additional flexibility margins sought in the assessment of public accounts and structural reforms, to the problem of banks, from the “migration compact” and the related issues between Schengen, Austria and the Brenner Pass, to the free movement of people and goods at the border, let alone the battle to prevent granting market economy status to China by the end of the year and the appointment of Italian officials within EU institutions.

Calenda is good for an efficient national crusade for growth, without however forgetting that in order to win it, Italy cannot lose the other European battles, which are inevitably related.
A successor needs to be named as soon as possible, hoping to make Europe forget an accident that harms the country's reputation. This is the last thing Italy needs right now.