CLEER Presidency Lecture: "The experience of the Italian Presidency of the EU Council in de field of external relations"

Published 16 April 2015

On 25 March, H.E. Francesco Azzarello, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy to the Netherlands, gave a presentation on Italy’s recent EU Presidency with a focus on the experience in the conduct of the Union’s external affairs. The event took place as part of the Asser Institute’s CLEER Presidency Lecture series.

Ambassador Azzarello called to mind the context of his country’s EU Presidency. It was characterized by challenges and instabilities both internally and externally. As for the latter, he mentioned the rise of ISIS, the increasing security degeneration in Libya and the Ebola crisis. Amongst the achievements of the Italian Presidency, His Excellency teased out quite a few significant steps: 1) in the area of immigration, the Presidency’s structured approach that has led to recognition of ‘European borders’, increasing the joint EU responsibility towards the issue and relevant security concerns; 2) the new impetus injected into the Enlargement process by opening four new chapters of accession negotiations with Montenegro; and 3) the brokerage of an agreement to declassify the TTIP negotiating directive and hence increase transparency in the negotiations. In particular, he emphasized the appointment of Mrs Mogherini toward the end of the Presidency’s term as an important feat for Italian diplomacy and reiterated her absolute fitness for the role of High Representative for Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission.

It is part of the CLEER Presidency Lecture Series format to invite an academic associated with CLEER to serve as respondent. Mr Claudio Matera, Assistant Professor at the University of Twente, in his ensuing presentation mentioned that the Presidency was not that active in legislative brokerage, possibly because of the transitory dynamics of the legislative institutions following the European elections of May and the appointment of a new Commission in the Fall of 2014. Whilst the appointment of Mrs Mogherini as High Representative could be viewed as a success for the Italian Presidency, Matera argued that the synergy between her office and the Italian Presidency did not manage to develop or implement EU-wide responses to the Libyan and Ukrainian crises, the two international dossiers that were at the top of the EU’s agenda in foreign affairs. In relation to the efforts of the Italian Presidency to bring at the centre of attention in Brussels the management of the Southern borders of the EU, Matera noted that whilst Italy had successfully managed to influence the launch of Operation Triton, the country was not successful in securing the reform of the existing European rules on asylum that are currently placing a heavier burden on the Member States situated at the external borders of the EU.

Following the presentation, a lively discussion developed among the participants, who were members of the diplomatic contingent stationed in The Hague, Dutch civil servants working on the preparation of the country’s upcoming EU Presidency and academics and students from Dutch universities.  

The event was convened and moderated by Dr. Tamara Takács, senior researcher and Academic programme coordinator of CLEER.