Last Wednesday, on 28th of November, European Generation hosted a debate called “Eurocracy: The Fight Over Rules, Power and Sovereignty”, which was highly interesting and controversial. The topic was more relevant after the European Commission’s recent budget battle with Italy while the Brexit process is gaining momentum. ISPI Vice President and Co-Head of the Center on Europe and Global Governance, professor Franco Bruni, and Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Milan, Massimo Gaudina, were invited to the debate as keynote speakers. The debate was successfully moderated by the Bocconi professor Andrea Colli. It was structured as two parts following each other, the first revolving around the historical background of the EU, the values it stood for and whether they changed or not and where to look for the culprit if the values did change. After the speeches and the comments of the speakers, debate proceeded to the second stage after a short Q&A session where students got the chance to participate in the debate. During the second stage, the main focus of the talks were the Italian Government’s conflicts with The EU Commission over budget. Recalling that, on Wednesday November 21st, 2018, the EU Commission began formal proceedings against the Italian government over its planned budget for the fiscal year 2019. Thus, the theoretical framework discussed in the first part was conjoined with a highly controversial up-to-date issue.
The debate commenced after the thought-provoking introduction by Professor Andrea Colli. He started by giving a historical background of the EU and the peacemaking mission it undertook after the war. While there is consensus over the nobility of the values that EU stood for, which are mainly freedom, peace, collaboration and solidarity, the questions raised by him were whether these values have undergone a semantic shift. Meaning, if over the years, freedom evolved into obligation, peace into conquest, collaboration into competition. Also drawing our attention to the ongoing search for a culprit, “a murderer” in his terms, without knowing where to look for. Afterwards Mr. Gaudina made a captivating speech about the peace-perpetuating functions of the EU and gave real-life examples of how EU expands the spheres of freedom of both individuals and member states. Among the examples given by him was how the Eurozone allows the establishment of systems like low-cost flying within the Eurozone that would otherwise be impossible to sustain. Another aspect he mentioned was the joint-initiative called “Digital Europe” that will be launched in the European Union, which will tackle fundamental issues of unemployment via the education of people with the latest digital trends, which would be rendered impossible if the EU did not function properly. The first part concluded with professor Bruni’s speech, which gave a technical background on Italy’s debt to GDP ratio, which was crucial in setting the stage for the second part. His speech confirmed that this debate was so timely and befitting because there is a need for trust and stability for the markets to fulfill their regulatory function.
After the brief but stimulating Q&A Session, the second stage of the debate took place. The highly anticipated second part was about Italy’s current conflict with the European Commission. Professor Andrea Colli initiated the debate again with his introduction. The thought-provoking themes introduced by him included the challenge of staying onboard the train of EU, how Italy’s new parliament will have more emphasis on pro-Europe politics and denationalization. Professor Bruni then made a speech that gave a valuable message. By cross-referencing to European History and also drawing from his knowledge of economics he said that the result of contemporary nationalistic attitudes will be the loss of national autonomy. Apart from denationalization, another key-point he mentioned was the role of communication in these issues. A highly intriguing example he gave was from the famous author Stephan Zweig, one of the early advocates of a united Europe. He quoted from Zweig’s “A World of Yesterday” saying in order to achieve a unionized Europe without conflicts, there is an immediate need to create steady means of mutual communication between member states. A quite farsighted remark that indeed still preserves its validity today. Professor Bruni implied that we still could not reach the level of communication that Zweig proposed. Therefore, meaning that the issues like the current EU-Italy Budget Conflict might as well be because of this rather than stemming from a conflict of interests.
The debate concluded after another brief Q&A. In conclusion, even though there were a lot of intriguing points made that are worth mentioning, we can say that the principles EU embodies like emancipation, co-operation and solidarity are still valid for Italy. Implying that when looked from the broader perspective, conciliation will be for the good of all. Thanks to the valuable contributions of the professors partaking in the debate we have gained important insights about this “broader perspective” that I’ve mentioned. Consequentially the right course of actions to follow will be to avoid hostility generating actions like looking for a culprit and instead work on developing mutual communications and understanding. This event was highly influential in making us better equipped to evaluate this issue, which without doubt will prove to be useful as the events further unfold.