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'Italy could bring its long tradition of transversal dialogue to the UN Security Council'

Interview - March 21, 2016

Paolo Messa, Director of the Center for American Studies, discusses the renewed importance of Italy within the transatlantic alliance in the Mediterranean context, and the potential role of the country in global affairs should it become the next non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018


Italy’s strategic position, in the middle of the Mediterranean region, enables the country to act as a logistic platform. What role could Italy play in its joint effort with USA taking into consideration all the unsteadiness of this historic period?

Italy represents an important crossroad not only along the North/South axis but also, more traditionally, along the East/West axis. At the present time, it already represents a pillar for transatlantic security. The effort of our military forces and NGOs is among some of the most generous within the NATO structure. However, much more could and should be done, especially as far as the Mediterranean area is concerned. Italy’s identity and traditional relationship with other cultures must be much more visible within the alliance and towards the USA in particular.


The TTIP is a globally discussed topic and constantly under the spotlight, either for the benefits that this free-trade zone could bring along and for some weaknesses that might be highlighted. What is your personal opinion on this trade agreement?

The TTIP certainly is a hot topic and the most predominant issue on the table during meetings attended by President Obama and the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. It is also currently being discussed with the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella. The agreement has a strategic value towards Italy’s role within Europe. This is not our first time engaging in business relations with the USA; however, we need to find a way to restore an extraordinary business partnership, triggering Europe’s upswing and efficiency.

The old continent is presently not part of other great international trade agreements; this is damaging to the European economy. We must take advantage of the TTIP as a starting point. The presence of American multinational companies in Italy, and in Europe, will be conducive towards investments. The US market is a goldmine for our companies that it is yet to be explored.


The Center for American Studies is a very important platform, acting as a bridge that connects two cultures. President Obama recently stated that he is very proud of the role played by the Italian community in the history of the USA. Can you share with us the history and the development of this institution?

The Center for American Studies was set up as a legacy of an American intellectual and Harvard professor named Nelson Gaye, who moved to Italy and decided to donate to the recently funded association a patrimony of books and documents.

Over the course of eight decades, our country has honored this legacy and today the center can boast a collection of over 100,000 books, written in their original language, making it the most important specialized library in American culture outside of US borders. We preserve very important documents dating back to the 19th century that we make available to universities, young students and researchers. Obviously all the contents and entries are connected to the main databases in order for us to be an island in an archipelago, and are easily connected through multiple cultural and digital docking sites.

Any person that has an interest in digging into American culture can find all the answers right here. Along with the written legacy that we host, we also organize events and initiatives that create a strong feeling of friendship and closeness in the hearts and minds of Italy’s current governance and students.


Are there any future projects towards prospective development of the Center for American Studies?

Culture and innovation are the keywords, trying to promote the best of Italian tradition in combination with the vision that comes from across the Atlantic Ocean.

Among the pressing topics concerning the private and the public sectors is how to ensure their cyber security. How do you think it will be possible to find a compromise to combine the management of public security combined with individual privacy with particular reference to the infamous terrorist attacks endured by some European countries?

Safety and freedom run together – one cannot exist without the other. Freedom involves an individual right to privacy. We live in a time where digital tools are a predominant part of our lives – it won’t be long until we’ll say “we’re not people from Earth, we’re people from the Cloud” – and this represents a new reality that policymakers were unprepared for.

The world today strives to keep up with a reality that runs at a much faster pace. We are faced with a challenge that has as its central focus the governance of innovation. In this context there are several aspects that need to be taken into account: nobody has found the perfect formula yet, but I do believe that the USA and Italy – and the USA and Europe – have timely achieved a leading position not only as far as technological innovations are concerned, but also as flagships for freedom and safety.

A joint venture between these two countries may represent a benchmark for the rest of the world.

NATO members must promote an intergovernmental dialogue as means of finding an adequate governance solution to this very complex phenomenon.


Regarding the Made in Italy brand, which is most traditionally linked to the agro-food, design and fashion industries, what are Italy’s contributions to the high-tech industry and the production of cutting-edge technology?

Young generations need to be aware that the Made in Italy brand presently – and even more so in the future – will be less conventional and increasingly high-tech. I listened to Obama’s speech on the USA’s focus on introducing a stronger computer-science-driven education into their schools as a means of creating a quintessential skill towards future employment. Italy is still lagging on this issue, but I do hope that our educational system will embrace this ideal in a country that still remains too close to its traditions.


Italy is going to be the next candidate towards being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. If you were to launch a message to the UN Council, what would Italy’s contributions toward finding solutions to the present great global challenges and controversies be?

Italy could act as a bridge that links the Southern and the Northern hemispheres, and I think that within an institution as complex as the UN Security Council, Italy could bring its long tradition of transversal dialogue and its attention towards Africa and the Middle East. If Italy finally forms part of the UN Security Council, it won’t just represent the country, but a whole series of challenges that involve different countries within the Mediterranean.