Enrico Letta

The week your walk to class continued to be impeded by security for the World Leaders Forum.  Yesterday in Low Enrico Letta, Italy’s Prime Minister, spoke.  Italian idol Alexandra Svokos tried to make her nonna proud.

There is no form of gradual disillusionment worse than going to your first World Leaders Forum in freshman year, hyped to see someone so important, only to find yourself so…very…bored.  That’s why I was so delighted yesterday when Letta gave a succinct, to the point, 20-minute speech.  Letta laid out his points: he would talk about lessons from the economic crisis, the transition period in European legislature in the next year, and the future of Italy.

I. Lessons from the crisis:
The EU clearly lacked the capability to handle the economic crisis.  There were not enough summits, and even if there had been they didn’t have any procedures in place to quickly adjust policies.  This led to a lot of wasted public money as interest rates rose and sovereign debt increased.  Letta explained, “sharing the Euro is not the same as sharing the market.”  There needs to be institutions in all Euro-included countries to monitor Euro actions and help when another crisis like this arises.

Letta also spoke at length about the importance of the United Kingdom.  Without the UK, the EU would be poor–“it would be a nightmare.”  Even without being on the Euro, the UK pushes for a more free market-oriented system in the EU and makes the EU a true financial superpower.

II. Transition:
In the next year, Italy will be taking over presidency of the Council of the European Union–right when it faces other changes in leadership. Letta pushed for the growth of the European legislature and a growth-focused agenda. He said that now is not a time to abandon fiscal consolidation.

“I know that because I am Italian,” he explained, saying that his generation is now paying for the debts of his parents.  “We can have fiscal consolidation and growth together.”  Letta also spoke to the success of his nation: Italy now has its budget under control and is second to Germany in terms of best controlled budget.

III. The future:
The major risk is that the EU will maintain old-style European rhetoric.  The union “needs to convince the people of today, not of yesterday” that Europe and its future can be trusted.  The future of Europe has a different challenge–it’s not about keeping the internal peace, it’s about staying as a major power.

Letta elaborated that at the first G7 meeting in 1975, 3 European countries–including Italy–were represented as the wealthiest developed nations.  Now, if the G-summits were held under the same criteria, no European country would be invited–not even Germany.  Only as a united group can Europe continue to be a global influence and player; they can influence the world with their cultures and values only if they remain united.

“Otherwise,” Letta shrugged, “we’re just good for vacations.”

Letta via Wikimedia Commons