In General Assembly, Italy’s President Says Nobody Likes Instability at Doorstep, Urging Staunch European Support of Mediterranean Partners’ Quest for Renewal

28 March 2011

In General Assembly, Italy’s President Says Nobody Likes Instability at Doorstep, Urging Staunch European Support of Mediterranean Partners’ Quest for Renewal

28 March 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly


82nd Meeting (AM)

In General Assembly, Italy’s President Says Nobody Likes Instability at Doorstep,

Urging Staunch European Support of Mediterranean Partners’ Quest for Renewal

Secretary-General Says ‘Grand Old Man of Italian Republic’ Champion of Public

Principle, Good Governance, Openness and Honesty as Democracy’s Highest Goods

Italy and Europe shared a future with the Mediterranean, a region where political unrest had shaken many countries, and the European Union should be ready to do more for those struggling to build new foundations on the basis of freedom, respect for human rights, democratic progress and good governance, Giorgio Napolitano, President of Italy, stressed today in a wide-ranging address to the General Assembly.

Discontent had forced many people into the streets in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf.  With seas and oceans uniting peoples and destinies, “I will not hide our concern at this turn of events,” he said.  “Nobody likes instability at his doorstep.”  In some cases, the stability was more precarious than it appeared and States should have been more conscious of the possible consequences of authoritarian Governments and corruption among ruling elites.

But the path towards political compromise that many had bravely taken also would result in strengthened State institutions and rule of law, he said.  Democracy would advance — rising from the inside — and reliable foundations for economic growth would be established.

Amid those changes, Italy’s Mediterranean partners must know they were not alone, isolated or forgotten, he said, underlining that Italy and the European Union stood ready to support efforts for political, social and economic renewal.  The Union’s Joint Communication of the European Commission on a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean, put forward this month, was a far-reaching response to the changing landscape.

Libya, he said, had rejected countless calls, including from the Assembly, and responded to dissent with unprecedented military force.  “We are in the process of protecting the civilian population and enforcing the United Nations Charter, acting under the full international legitimacy of Security Council resolution 1973 (2011),” he observed.  The common principles of justice, tolerance and dignity had become a beacon for the profound change ongoing in that region.

Recalling that Italy on 17 March celebrated the 150th anniversary of its unification, he said:  “We are an ancient nation but a young State that became a Republic at the same time the United Nations were born.”  Italy’s embrace of multilateralism traced back to that time, with participation in the birth of the European Community and adherence to the Atlantic Alliance.  Its Constitution rejected war as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples.

Since then, other issues had come to the fore, with the 2008 financial crisis exposing dramatic imbalances and spurring unprecedented levels of sovereign debt in many countries, he said, adding that time was running out for regimes that resorted to “biased narratives” of the outside world.  “What is at stake is the relationship between the citizen and the State, the so-called social contract.”

Indeed, there was a clear duty to help that dawn become reality and to intervene when dictatorship tried to stem the tide, he said, underscoring that such challenges must be met on the basis of international legitimacy.  Any reform of the Security Council should make it more representative, efficient and accountable to Member States.

In the European Union, the Lisbon Treaty had pressed Member States forward on the path of institution strengthening and parliamentary union, he said.  Current circumstances dictated more integration, including more pooling of sovereignty in the fiscal and monetary domain.  “For us Europeans this is a must”, he said.  There was no turning back from the common currency that 17 Member States freely chose to share.  Such integration would drive progress toward a single European voice in world affairs, especially foreign and security policy.

Italy had shown unstinting support for the United Nations, he said, as the sixth largest contributor to its regular budget and largest European contributor of “blue helmets” to peacekeeping operations.  In return, Italy would ask the Organization to be at the forefront in preventing genocide, combating discrimination, protecting minorities and eliminating religious intolerance.

Welcoming Mr. Napolitano to the United Nations, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland said the Assembly was privileged to hear the message of someone who, throughout his career, had been a parliamentarian, minister, and today, President.  The world was familiar with the genius of Italians, whose contributions to Western civilization were older than unity itself.  From Roman law and architecture to literature, bell canto and design, the unification movement in Italy had responded to the aspirations of its forefathers for freedom and justice.

In the twenty-first century, uprisings in the Arab world had borne out the timeless values of those aspirations, he said, and in the face of those events, the international community must be responsible and united in its actions.  Thanking Italy for its financial, human and technical assistance, he also welcomed the country to inter-governmental negotiations on reform of the Security Council, saying that, as a member of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and Group of 20, it had a key role to play.

Calling Mr. Napolitano the “grand old man of the Italian Republic”, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that, as the embodiment of Italian post-war history, Mr. Napolitano was the leading moral voice of Italy and beyond.  A champion of public principle, good governance, openness and honesty as democracy’s highest goods, he had helped make Italy what it was today.

He noted that Mr. Napolitano’s address was taking place at an important time in the history of the United Nations, as revolutionary change was sweeping the Arab world with repercussions being felt everywhere and by all.  At the same, the Organization faced epochal change in other spheres, from climate change to fighting global poverty to advancing human rights.  “ Italy is in the vanguard of all these struggles, just as you yourself have so often been in the vanguard of so many of humankind’s great and noble causes,” he told the Italian President.

As the sixth largest contributor to the United Nations budget, Italy supported the Organization’s three pillars, he said, while on the economic front, Italy had advanced the global agenda to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Italy was also home to the Organization’s Logistics Base in Brindisi and Staff College in Torino.  Its capital was the birthplace of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Applauding the Italian President and the country he served, he saluted Mr. Napolitano’s personal support for the United Nations, saying his dedication to parliamentary democracy was especially noteworthy.  “I encourage your even greater engagement in the international arena as we look to our common challenges ahead,” he added.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.