Gasperi, Alcide de: European union

L’unione europea, in II Popolo, 20 Feb. 1950; repr. in Maria Romana Catii De Gasperi, La nostra patria Europa. II pensiero europeistko di Alcide De Gasperi, Milan, 1969
Translated at W.Lipgens and W. Loth, Documents on the History of European Integration, De Gruyter, 1988.

gasperi1There are some who complain of a certain slowness, an unduly gradual approach towards the economic integration and political unification of Europe. But a reasonable degree of gradualness should inspire confidence in our friends and not distrust.

We have to work for a political and economic union that will be genuine and lasting, and this requires a detailed exchange of ideas and proposals and the careful examination of mutual concessions.

The fact that we have been stimulated to make concessions in such delicate matters as national economic interests, which in the past have been so jealously watched over, shows how strong is the impulse and how convinced we are of the need for European unity.

Our American friends must not consider European union as a new creation – one of the many international institutions that spring up at particular historical moments on the initiative of men of good will who desire to consolidate peace, harmonize discordant views and eliminate disputes. Although such institutions are new, they are indispensable and can easily be constructed in perfect accordance with the schemes of their inventors.

European union, on the other hand, is based on an existing reality – it is not a new creation, still less can it become a superstructure. This is its strength, and the basis of our secure confidence. Europe exists, and therefore we can never set up a superfluous institution with no basis in reality. But we must take care lest the new political and economic form of the continent should be an artificial construction, ignoring realities that we cannot alter at will.

Sacrifices are necessary. Italy has not hesitated to make them, although it is one of the countries with the lowest economic standards in Europe. Inclusion in a common European market consisting of richer and better equipped countries is bound to be risky for a country like ours with a high demographic potential, a scarcity of raw materials and a largely secondary industry. We are convinced that European integration may provide the solution of some of our chief internal problems, but these must be taken account of by the other European states if the effects of integration are not to be impaired by Italy’s overpopulation and under-employment. This interconnection between internal problems and collective solutions applies, of course, to all the states comprising the European union.

Up to now we have achieved the following concrete aims: an Italo-French customs union, a regional union of Italy, France and the Benelux countries; the liberalization of over 76% of our raw material imports, of nearly 53% of farm products, and, subject to the entry into force of the commercial tariff, nearly 51% of finished products; and the almost complete liberalization of invisible transactions. We have also put into effect new ideas such as the agreements for industrial cooperation with France, which are necessary for future customs union and integration on a regional basis.

We must, as we have made clear internationally, continue towards integration in multiple directions. We must, for instance, ensure the liberalization of movement not only of capital but of human beings: otherwise we cannot solve the problem of unemployment, which at present weighs so heavily on Italy. Without the free movement of labour the general problem of the liberalization of trade will not be solved but aggravated. And we must see to the integration of economic and financial policy and international political cooperation.

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