Ahead of the Vilnius Summit (November 28-29, 2013) EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton promised that the high-level meeting would “open a new chapter” in the relationship between the EU and its eastern neighbours. What came out of the Summit, however, resembles discovering to read an old chapter with Ukraine’s decision not to sign the Association Agreement (AA) being the unexpected bitter surprise for Brussels.
Proximity to Germany has some obvious advantages, not least helping Poland withstand the euro-crisis. Yet, it has drawbacks too, and if nothing changes in German European policy after the election, Poland’s may have to. The reason is simple: Poles have benefited from behaviour on the part of the current German government which have been costly to the EU as a whole. Poland is aware of the drawbacks in Germany’s approach and is in a position to offset them.
Foreign policy, unsurprisingly, has not occupied a central role in the campaign for the general elections of 24-25 February 2013. Relations with the European Union, including key Member States, have been discussed against Italy’s problems with fiscal austerity and economic development. One interesting exception is the debate over the vote in favour of granting Palestine observer status in the United Nations that the Monti government gave in December 2012, without a discussion in Parliament.
Italy and European integration: general background
Despite periodical, yet relatively short fluctuations, support for the European Union (EU) has been a virtually constant guideline in Italian foreign policy for a number of reasons, notably EU’s perceived role as a vehicle of pan-European geopolitical stability, economic re-distribution and socio-cultural modernisation.