The former Italian prime minister presented his book “Contro Venti e Maree” at an event organized by the US-Italy Forum. Letta discussed the role of Italy, France, Germany and ECB’s Draghi with IMF’s Carlo Cottarelli and journalist Renzo Cianfanelli.

Antonella Ciancio

Multimedia Freelance Journalist - Food, Retail, Luxury, Lifestyle, Finance, Video

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Antonella is a published author. She has worked for the Reuters News Agency for 12 years, based in Italy, with secondments in Paris, London, Dublin and Washington DC.
She moved to Washington DC in 2013 for an unexpected twist of fate.

Now, she is a Freelance Journalist. Writing & Videos about Food, Finance, EU & US.   International Co Chair  at the National Press Club and contributor for LaStampa, italianfood_net, GFmag and 24america.

By Antonella Ciancio

After 2016 ended with the UK's shock decision to leave the EU and the US presidential election of Donald Trump, Enrico Letta believes Europe has the opportunity in 2017 to come together with a renewed spirit of integration, strong of the leadership of France’s pro-EU president Emmanuel Macron and with Italy playing a co-leading role in working with Germany toward shared goals and values.

“Between the horrible year 2016, external threats and the risk for Europe to die, and 2017, a pro-European surge is the only possibility to avoid the death of the European Union,” said Letta via Skype from Paris in a lively debate organized by the US-Italy Global Affairs Forum with Carlo Cottarelli, executive director of the International Monetary Fund, and the Corriere della Sera journalist Renzo Cianfanelli from London.

“I’m not happy because of Brexit and Trump. I’m very sad because of both. But today both these events are the greatest opportunity for European integration,” Letta said. “We have to add Trump to the ‘Holy Trinity’ of European founders: Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi ….and Donald Trump.”

Born in Pisa and with a childhood in Strasbourg, the former prime minister of Italy (2013-2014) who entered politics as a young member of the Christian Democracy (DC) has always cultivated the dream of Europe. The landslide victory of pro-EU independent candidate Emmanuel Macron as president of France brings new hope as Germany prepares to vote in September and Italy by early 2018, Letta said.

Speaking of the dangers of populism and non-establishment leaders who measure their popularity on social media, Letta said leadership is a different thing.
If you follow your follower you are not a leader,” he said. “We have in some countries including in Italy the idea that the leader is the one who is the best follower of his own followers. This is not leadership,” he said.

I’m happy today because I see the European Union on a new track. The European flag is becoming cooler,” said Letta, who lives and works in Paris as Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) at Sciences Po and chairs the European think tank Jacques Delors Institute.

Macron used the EU flag as a symbol of his electoral campaign for the first time in many years, and he won.
Macron and Italy have the keys to work with Germany. The word is accountability. If we are accountable in our own budgets, we can convince them to have a mutualization and go,” Letta said.

Speaking of the effects of Brexit, Letta proposed to "reassign the 73 seats that the UK will need to leave in the European Parliament to deputies elected on pan-European lists.

He also encouraged Cottarelli, who will be leaving the IMF in October to return to Italy, to return to serve the country as he did when he was commissioner for the spending review under the government of Letta and his successor Matteo Renzi.
The first decision should be to ask Carlo to be back not to Cremona but to Via XX Settembre,” Letta said, referring to the offices of Ministry of Economy. “If Carlo is successful in what he was doing years ago, the Germans can trust us and we can be seen as accountable and go,” he said.

Cottarelli, who said he is working on creating an “Observatory on Italian Public Accounts” (“Osservatorio sui Conti Pubblici Italiani”) with a first phase of the project to be completed in November, said he is “relatively optimistic” about the future of Europe, which has “teething” but not permanent problems.

I don’t believe in the story that Europe is not an optimal currency area. We started in the wrong way we accumulated imbalances in terms of stock but flows have converged. It’s absolutely necessary to improve economic convergence,” he said.

Letta, who strongly backs the euro as a factor that helped keep public debt under control, outlined a vision of Europe where Germany would take a more positive approach toward fiscal policies to help implement reforms. He praised European Central Bank’s President Mario Draghi for saving Europe despite German opposition to his accommodative monetary policy. Draghi, whose mandate ends in November 2019, proved that “it’s not true that Germany is almighty and running everything,” Letta said. “We need Germany thinking of a continuity in Draghi’s leadership of the ECB.
Monetary union, security and defense will be the main issues the day after the German election in September, Letta said, supporting the idea of creating a sort of European Monetary Fund to reduce Europe’s reliance on the IMF. “We need to be credible on our own,” Cottarelli said, backing Letta's view.