Ventotene – the symbolism of the Renzi-Hollande-Merkel summit

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Matteo Renzi discussed the future of Europe aboard the aircraft carrier "Guiseppe Garibaldi" [Bundesregierung/Bergmann]

The choice of Matteo Renzi to hold the meeting with President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel in Ventotene was highly significant, writes Monica Frassoni.

Monica Frassoni is the co-chair of the European Green Party.

It was in Ventotene that two young prisoners of the fascists, Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi wrote what would become the very first political manifesto calling for the political democratic unification of Europe and shared sovereignty on issues like security, defence, economic and social policies as the antidote to war and totalitarism. If one considers that the manifesto “for a free and united Europe” was written in 1941 when the victory of Hitler seemed still possible, by people who had spent in prison an important part of their youth, one understands the power and the ambition of their vision.

Ambition and vision is exactly what we need today. And change. And unity.

Each of the three leaders who met in Ventotene had a different in some cases contradictory  agenda. They all looked primarily to their national audiences.  They all considered the cooperation among governments as the privileged method of decision-making in the EU: it was no accident that neither the European Parliament nor the European Commission were mentioned in their interventions, strictly limited by a well-constructed scenery and without space for a real questioning from the press.

This is not in line with the main message of the Ventotene Manifesto. But it is also a fact that they all need a functioning and credible EU if they are to defeat the voices of those who are gaining consensus in their countries on the illusion that closing up of societies, the building of new walls and lack of solidarity with other people’s and countries are the answers to economic and social distress.

None of them will be able to stand still and they now need to move together and for the sake of making the EU work: Merkel needs to move on her “austerity” mantra; Hollande needs to stop running after the German government priorities in economy and Marine Le Pen concerning immigration issues. Renzi will need to put some substance on his relentless demands for flexibility, tackling the lack of growth by decisively defeating corruption and exploit the huge potential of green economy.

This “reset” will not come about only with the action of a new directory of three national leaders. It will need the involvement and commitment of European institutions and citizens.

In the current situation the latter will be the most difficult task. But I am convinced that the message from Ventotene is still the right one.

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