Speaker 2015

Enrico LettaDean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po and former Prime Minister of Italy.

The state of Europe

Enrico Letta is the new Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po. A member of the Democratic Party, he was Prime Minister of Italy in 2013-2014. As the head of a broad coalition government representing the main parties from centre-left to centre-right during a particularly difficult period for the country, his political action earned him respect and admiration. Over the past twenty years he has contributed in numerous ways to the construction of Europe. He recently published “Andare insieme, andare lontano” (“Going Together, Going Far”).

Keynote Speech on Video

“Faced with the rise of the BRICS […], only a united Europe will be able to maintain its rank”.

Report : The state of Europe

The issue of “more” or “less” Europe has found a sadly flagrant response in the recent tragic events that transpired in Paris. The shortcomings of the “Europe of defense” have been tragically highlighted, leading Enrico Letta to state that without a consolidated union, the European project has little chance of lasting. He calls for a Europe of 28 states – not necessarily forcing all its members to agree to the federal type of integration reserved for the euro zone, but a cohesive Europe with a strong core, capable of superseding the North/South divide on the economic level and the East/West…

The issue of “more” or “less” Europe has found a sadly flagrant response in the recent tragic events that transpired in Paris. The shortcomings of the “Europe of defense” have been tragically highlighted, leading Enrico Letta to state that without a consolidated union, the European project has little chance of lasting. He calls for a Europe of 28 states – not necessarily forcing all its members to agree to the federal type of integration reserved for the euro zone, but a cohesive Europe with a strong core, capable of superseding the North/South divide on the economic level and the East/West on the migrant issue. As Enrico Letta summed it up: “Faced with the rise of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that will outweigh the old continent in the global economy as of next year, only a united Europe will be able to maintain its rank.”

“Having been accustomed for such a long time to experiencing lengthy periods of ‘normality’ merely punctuated by occasional obstacles to be ironed out, we are now finding ourselves facing a string of successive crises”, explained Enrico Letta, the first speaker at the 7th Forum de la Haute Horlogerie held on November 18th in Lausanne. “And when one comes to think of it, one also realizes that the very concept of time is now merely that of a present that gradually broadens out – a kind of ‘presentism’ that erases any notion of past and future and calls for real-time decision-making. And I personally don’t like presentism.”

Such was the context outlined by the former Prime Minister of Italy – a context in which Europe is experiencing a terrorist crisis that has hit France head-on. “Faced with this apparently deadlocked situation for which we have no answers, but only improved scenarios, the question of ‘more or less Europe’ is once again rearing its head”, he continued. “This question is entirely justified and the present situation would call for distinctly more Europe. Security services tend to work alone without necessarily sharing vital information and that is indeed one of the causes behind the recent events. These days security is still being dealt with on a national level, whereas terrorism has definitely gone global!”

Collective responses

Among the potential scenarios mentioned by Enrico Letta, there is that of a France isolated from the rest of the world and determined to respond by intensive strikes on Islamic state strongholds: such a scenario would lead to the crumbling of the collective vision of Europe. Or there is that of a fortress-style Europe attempting to stem the influx of refugees considered to be ticking time bombs. “These two scenarios are plausible”, warned Enrico Letta. “Especially since decisions will have to be taken fast. We’re not going to just sit around and wait for a new attack before reacting. But at the very moment when Europe appears to be at last emerging from the 2008 subprime crisis, it is confronted with two divides: a first one along the North/South axis for the economic reasons of which we are all aware; and another along the East/West axis that has arisen this year on the Russian issue and the response to refugees. That’s the new situation in 2015: two divides at once. If Europe does not succeeded in overcoming its divergences to build a strong center, it will find itself scattered in all directions.”

This strong Europe that Enrico Letta wishes to see taking shape is also justified on the macro-economic level, and the dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po noted that a new balance of forces is emerging. Over the past 20 years, the weight of the West – comprising Europe and the United States – within the global economy has dropped from 45% to 32%, whereas that of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has almost doubled during the same period. In 2016, these countries with a 33% share will have overtaken the West. Enrico Letta challenged the audience with the question: “Without a united Europe, what message can we convey to the Indians and the Chinese? The world is changing and Europe will only be able to play a role within it by presenting a united front. That does not mean that European integration must be pushed to its extreme limits. We know very well that the British do not want that. The European Union can run perfectly well with 28 nations operating around a smaller core group comprising the countries of the Euro zone grouped within a federal entity. To sum up, and in light of the terrorist attacks on Paris, I hope with all my heart that European countries fully understand that solidarity with France is not a matter of protocol. We are all under attack; our way of living is under attack. The response must be both strong and collective.”

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