As Matteo Renzi delivered a passionate speech to the European Parliament on June 2 to mark the occasion of Italy’s accession to the Presidency of the EU there was just for once a hint of glamour and a certain “Yes We Can” attitude that filled these hallowed but usually rather drab halls. The Prime Minister of Italy actually received standing ovations at the end of an address in which he told MEPs that “if Europe would take a selfie of itself today it would show a tired face,” and that “the real big challenge awaiting our continent is to find back the soul of Europe, find back the real meaning of living together”.
We couldn’t agree more. European citizens are tired of steady unemployment, corruption and political leadership that is quick to point the finger at Brussels but slow to take responsibility for its own actions. While that rare ability to captivate an audience might enable Mr Renzi to start a debate about the big picture, it will not absolve him from the responsibility to tackle these problems both on the home front and at EU level. He has repeatedly vowed to do so during a remarkable rise to power that led some New York Times commentators to proclaim him an Italian-Style Obama.
Well Mr Renzi, the time to deliver on this commitment and demonstrate leadership is now, and this is why Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the EU comes at a particularly opportune moment – as we have outlined in our position paper for the Italian Presidency there are four crucial anti-corruption issues that will be discussed within the Council of the EU or in trilogue discussions after the summer:
♦ Revision of the 3rd Anti-Money Laundering Directive – to keep dirty money form ending up in European bank accounts
♦ Regulation for the Establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office – to create a powerful crime-busting agency that protects EU money from cross-border crimes such as corruption
♦ Directive on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law – to create a legal basis for the EU to legislate on fraud and related crime
♦ Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement between the EU and the USA – to ensure there are strong anti-corruption provisions and transparency of the negotiations
As the Italian Presidency will chair all Council meetings and trilogue discussions between the institutions Italy will have a pivotal role in these negotiations.
Clearly when it comes to corruption much more remains to be done by Mr Renzi. Due to the European elections and the subsequent political restructuring of the European Commission the window of opportunity will not exist for long. That is why we are counting on Mr Renzi’s government to seize this chance to reinvigorate Europe by joining the fight against corruption.
Integrity and political accountability might just be the remedy that Europe needs. Enough of this medicine might even enable politicians and citizens to find the trust and solidarity that is essential for living together in the EU.
Together with our colleagues at Transparency International Italia we will monitor how Italy’s Presidency fares in these efforts. We will publish our findings in a Presidency Scorecard in February (See the previous Scorecard for the Lithuanian Presidency here).
Watch this space to stay in the loop!