With his book (L’America per noi, ed), Mario De Pizzo offers us the opportunity to reflect on the state and prospects of relations between the US and Italy.
2021 was indeed America’s year for us, as [Mr] De Pizzo wrote. But it also was the year of Italy for America, to draw an accurate picture of what has turned out to be almost a symbiosis as well as a deep friendship.
The Biden administration rose from the ashes of the assault on Capitol Hill in January in a strongly polarised country, but with the ambition encapsulated in the slogan “America is back”. And I would say that America’s return to the international stage has been successful thanks to Italy’s support, too.
I am referring, for example, to the return of the US to the Human Rights Council, which was impossible without us, and above all to the G20, where Washington found an Italian presidency entirely in tune with its own priorities.
The back-and-forth between Italy and the US has, in fact, relaunched multilateralism, enabling the G20 to achieve some ambitious goals that, frankly, were not at all to be taken for granted. The taxation of multinationals, the vaccinations against Covid, the climate, the aid to developing countries, to name but a few.
We were also able to mobilise the G20 on an extremely controversial political issue such as Afghanistan through an extraordinary summit [on the subject] chaired by President Draghi. A very diverse audience was able to share commitments such as the fight against terrorism, support for humanitarian aid to the Afghan population and the protection of human rights, particularly those of women.
One of the most important and well-attended events of the last UN General Assembly was a meeting on the situation of Afghan women chaired by Minister Luigi Di Maio. The combination of unquestionable Atlantic credentials and Italy’s convinced Europeanism has also made it central to the relationship between the US and Europe, which relaunched this year with a partly new balance.
The initial enthusiasm, which culminated with President Biden’s visit to Brussels on June 15, was followed by the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the AUKUS agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom. Moments of discontinuity, of course, which it would be misleading to interpret as a distancing from Europe, but which have changed the dynamic of this relationship.
This is demonstrated by concrete facts such as the settlement of trade disputes, the creation of the Trade and Technology Council. On the political front, we have the start of a dialogue on security and defence, the EU-US dialogue on China and Russia and the Indo-Pacific, and the recent weeks’ close cooperation on Ukraine.
The transatlantic link is irreplaceable for Washington because no one can help the US more than Europe in demonstrating to the world – starting with the American middle class, which is the target of the country’s foreign policy – that democracies are more effective than authoritarianism.
That was Prime Minister Draghi’s message at the Summit for Democracy on December 9. The EU’s experience, he said, offers an excellent example of the resilience of democracies. And Italy has been central to the authoritativeness it expressed in the pandemic, shaping the Next Generation EU (recovery and resilience package, ed) and declining it in its National Recovery Plan.[Italy] was the first country in the EU to clearly support the need to play a more important geopolitical role – in a complementary way to NATO, strengthening it. The Biden administration sees very clearly the role that our country is playing.
2021’s closeness in the multilateral and European dimensions is complemented by an exceptional relationship on the bilateral level, too. We are engaged side by side in numerous theatres, including Iraq and the Sahel, Lebanon and Libya, and the anti-ISIS stance. We owe the absolute record of €377 billion for our exports in 2021 to the 22% growth in trade with the US, which generates over 50% of Italy’s net trade surplus.
We are close partners in scientific research, from biomedicine to space. The demand for culture increases and can be felt everywhere in the US. Mr De Pizzo’s book also highlights the strong parallelism between our two domestic agendas: the drive for vaccinations, investments in green transition and digitalisation, sustainability, and women at the heart of economic recovery.
I have witnessed this strong synergy in all the visits of Italian authorities to the US: the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Economy, Economic Development and Justice. As well as the many, vital exchanges in the private sector.
It seems clear to me that we are perhaps even more than Fellini’s magic friend, mentioned at the end of this fine book. Consider the interplay at the multilateral tables, the impulse to relaunch the relationship with a stronger and more cohesive EU, the relaunch of a positive agenda in the Mediterranean and the European dream of the Balkans, an economic and strategic partnership on all fronts looking towards a sustainable and secure future.
We have all the conditions to successfully fill the following pages of the history of this friendship between Italy and the US. So Italy is a magic friend, but above all a faithful friend, and a forever friend.