In a speech which can only help UKIP and other eurosceptic parties in the run up to elections to the European Parliament later this month, the prime minister of Italy Matteo Renzi has called for a United States of Europe and urged “all mainstream political forces” to show that the EU “is a common destiny, [from] which it is impossible to escape.”
Renzi – who has been likened to JFK and Tony Blair for his youth and good looks – also called for power over laws on asylum to be taken away from national governments and be put under the control of EU law.
His comments will be all the more alarming – or all the more energising, — for eurosceptic parties because Italy takes the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from July 1st.
That means Renzi and his government and civil servants will organise and chair all meetings of the EU Council of Ministers until December 31st, influencing the legislative and political decision making and leading negotiations of deals between ministers of in areas such as justice and home affairs, economics and finance, agriculture, fisheries, environment, energy and transport.
In the jargon, the Council of Ministers is a “co-legislator” with the European Parliament in all these areas — and a prime minister aiming for a United States of Europe will be in the chair.
The only meetings at which Italy will not be in the chair is at the European Council, where heads of state and government meet under the chairmanship of Herman Van Rompuy, and the foreign policy council, which is chaired by Catherine Ashton, the British socialist and former treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who was plucked from obscurity by Gordon Brown to be made High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security.
In a speech outlining his vision for the six-month Italian presidency, Renzi, a social democrat, urged “courageous leaders to work towards a United States of Europe,” according to a report in Euractiv.
“For my children’s future, I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe.”
He urged European leaders “to show not in the cold language of technocracy, that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to solve the problems of our time.”
While Italy holds the presidency of the council, Renzi said his priorities would be “growth and employment as the founding values of Europe, citizenship rights and openness to the world, not only in terms of trade and economic relations, but also in terms of values.”
The top priority would be EU immigration policy: “The economy of trade cannot close in fences and cause us to lose sight of the fundamental value of openness in the world, which calls for a redefinition of the concept of the borders, especially those in the Mediterranean.”
He asked: “Is the Mediterranean an Italian or European border?”
Renzi supports the policy of Cecilia Malmström, the Swedish socialist who is European Commissioner for Home Affairs. That means she is in charge of developing EU legislation on police cooperation, border control and migration.
She wants asylum law to be controlled by Brussels and not by national governments because her policy is that “the Mediterranean is a European border.”
Renzi said: “No day in our presidency will pass without us showing the contrast between a Europe that affirms its values, and a Europe that could not practice them, when it denies the possibility to our brothers and sisters to be welcomed in all the EU.”