MUNPlanet: What are the main driving forces in world politics today?
Franco Frattini: We should not despair about the state of the world. Contrary to the often-heard refrain that it is becoming safer, I would like to focus on the fact that the actual complexity of the Globe joint to the new challenges needs new and collective strategies in order to better deal with the modern goals. If I should think to a better and safer world, than, my reply is that in today’s policies the main drivers have to be international security, migration and development.
MUNPlanet: With the crisis in Ukraine, can we say the Cold War and great power politics actually never ceased to be the dominant pattern of international relations?
Franco Frattini: First of all, I want to stress the Italian commitment, both during the EU and G8 Presidency, in picking up the thread of the dialogue and power balance, especially during and after the Georgia crisis. I particularly worked a lot, as a minister of foreign affairs, to keep open the channels of dialogue between the US, Moscow, and Europe, in order to prevent a return to former positions of opposition and the cold war mood.
We shouldn’t forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall turned out to be the biggest challenge to Europe. Across the world that fall has become, in fact, as strong a symbol for democracy and the voice of the people. We should never forget that two decades after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Europe and the world have gained enormously from democratic and economic integration. The integration of countries under democracy, from 2004 onwards, has proved it. It has been the only possible and morally right answer to overcome the division that originated during the Cold War. The only answer to this is to let Europe be reunified.
But, certainly, what’s happening today with the Ukraine crisis lets Europe to step back on the idea of its unity. It’s a matter of weakness of our Continent. Ukraine is close to our borders, and it has been a Brussels’ fault to be divided and shy, with no actions and decisions, from the very beginning of the crisis. Some made the very serious mistake to present the EU–Ukraine association agreement as an instrument to counter Russia’s aspiration or to promote a new “containment policy.” Sincerely, the EU left in US hands the initiatives, including the proposal and decision on sanctions. It’s because of this weakness that we today dramatically speak about a “world divided in blocks” again.
MUNPlanet: Just a couple of years ago it seemed that a new armed conflict in Europe is unthinkable, and the talk about security community seemed unquestionable. Have things now changed fundamentally with the conflict in Ukraine, and how that affects the European Union?
Franco Frattini: Security is primarily an issue of a nation’s relations with other states. The end of the Second World War and the dialogue between nations meant peace. It was, above all, a concrete effort to mutually manage and solve the international crisis. 2015 is a particular year reminding us about this effort, because it’s the 70th Yalta Anniversary. So, frankly speaking, it would be such a sad story if after this long, after achieving the stability and peace, after the fall of the curtains, we jumped into a new and unpredictable global turmoil.
Peace is not necessarily forever if states are not continuously committed to its maintenance and to the eradication of all those (local, regional and global) root causes creating economic, social and political insecurity and instability, that is, so to say, the most fertile field for fostering violence, tensions and armed conflicts.
Disorders are generated by weakness, provocations and a lack of vision. That’s why I answer again that a weak and politically divided Europe does not contribute to global stability. Look not only at the situation in Ukraine, but also at the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and the Sahel as well. The lack of vision can fragment a strategy and can really hurt in the long run.
So, if we want to talk again about an “unquestionable security community”, we should start building the basis on our Continent with a new security concept that embraces the principles of dialogue, trust, cooperation and a new security policy. Europe should turn from a soft power to a hard power.
Then we should focus on a second issue: the role of international organizations in today’s globalized world. Seventy years after the signing of the UN Charter, the world has changed. The biggest security threats, as the IS demonstrates, lean towards more aggressive and unpredictable actions. They extend to regional crisis, poverty, infectious diseases, environmental degradation, bad governments, civil conflicts, proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, international terrorism, cybersecurity, migrations and transnational organized crime. The people of the world expect much more from us. They need not only state security, but also human security, indivisibility of international security, economic development, human freedom and democracy. They expect from governments and alliances to be more effective and efficient instruments for forging a united, collective response to shared threats and shared needs of the mankind.
MUNPlanet: You are currently serving as President of SIOI, the Italian United Nations Association. How would you characterize the position of Italy in contemporary international relations, and within the United Nations system?
Franco Frattini: I think that the events of recent years led to declining public confidence in the United Nations, especially after the attacks on 9/11. The role of Italy has always been to work for a new trust in the United Nations entities and to improve its performance. The United Nations institutions have too often failed to meet people’s expectations. They are, of course, the main global governance guide, because their fundamental principles enshrined in the Charter remain as valid today as the day they were signed. I think to the central role of the human person, the rigorous defence of human rights, the needs of the weakest, of women, and the defence of religious freedoms. This is what we teach and study every day at SIOI.
MUNPlanet:This year, the United Nations turns 70. Is this anniversary the right time for initiating a thorough reform of the UN system and breathing a new inspiration in its functioning?
Franco Frattini: If we look back to the United Nations story, we can obviously highlight some records of this great Organization, such as the dismantlement of the colonialism, the defeat of mortal diseases, the triumph over apartheid, many efforts and victories regarding women rights such as the resolution on the female genital mutilation, the freedom of press and religion, equality and dignity. At the same time, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed recently “the world has still not found the lasting peace and stability the founders had envisaged”. That’s why in this important, seventieth anniversary, which comes together with the sixtieth anniversary of Italy at the UN, we should think towards a new transition to a “Strong UN and a Better World”, which is also this year’s theme. We should capture the importance of multilateralism. This is at the same time a test and an opportunity which should serve as a chance to seriously reflect on States’ common mission to take action on important issues including international terrorism, sustainable development and climate change. I really hope, as president of SIOI, that we could succeed in reaffirming this commitment in the great cause of living together with security, dignity and peace for all.
MUNPlanet: The world is more interdependent and more connected than ever, but this closeness brings new risks, threats and challenges that states alone are not sufficient to solve. What the current and new leaders have to do in order to deal with those concerns?
Franco Frattini: Simply: political leaderships should change their way of thinking. We are too small to act alone in this huge world. That’s why only a collective action can solve the problems. Current and new leaders must watch at the mistakes in the past and build stronger visions for the future. As Alcide De Gasperi, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, used to say: "A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of the country".
MUNPlanet: How do you see the state of communication among peoples and communication between states in the era of globalization? What is your take on the role of online social networks in the conduct of politics and their effect on human nature?
Franco Frattini: Communication today is more challenging and more complex than it was ever before in history. Advanced technology is supposed to make things easier. Both traditional and new media help a lot in promoting communication among people, states and institutions. Communication is the heartbeat of relationships. We live in a world where the borders are geographically far, but digitally close. Let’s look at last general elections: it could be the key to success for public administration, institutions and leaderships to explain their commitments to citizens in a simple and less bureaucratic way.
Do the social media really matter? They do. According to an important US survey by Pew Research Center, cell phones and social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter are playing an increasingly prominent role in how voters get political information and follow election news. Additionally, information supplied by social networking websites played an important role during modern protests and crisis, specifically in the case of elections in Iran, or the Arab Spring. In Arab countries, many youths used social networking as a key tool in expressing their thoughts concerning unjust acts committed by the government. It’s through social networking sites that the Arab Spring not only gained attention of the world, but also helped free civilians from their oppressors. Social networks have broken the psychological barrier of fear by helping many to connect and share information. Arab Spring did not start because of the social media, but they played an important role by providing the information on what was happening, and what people was looking for.
MUNPlanet: You have supported the organization of WIMUN 2014 conference in Rome. Can Model UN serve as a platform for change, and become a transformative force of a new global leadership in world politics?
Franco Frattini: SIOI, as UN Association for Italy, has been chosen – due to its 70-years experience in the field of the international relations – as unique partner of the first international MUN organized by the World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA). “WIMUN 2014”, which took place in Rome from June 30th to July 4th 2014, has been a big experience for youth coming from all over the world, but for us as well. For youth, because they had the chance of being part of the UN system for a couple of days, playing a leading role for the revolutionary roadmap of the new changing world. For us, because we learnt that the point of view of young people to international issues is not only important, but can actually make the difference. Thanks to their proposals we have updated some parts of the UN dossiers being discussed at the General Assembly, such as the Sustainable Development Goals. It has been a great and very informative experience for everybody that we are going to repeat as soon as the coming October, when we’ll promote, in Rome, a special Model UN, “ROMUN2015 ” (Rome Model United Nations): a “Model of Ideas” directly related to the new development agenda goals and to EXPO Milan 2015 main themes (food security, innovation, energy, …). You can read all the info and updates about this Model on our official website.
MUNPlanet: What would be your message to the young generation leaders and scholars who come from the Model United Nations community?
Franco Frattini: We are seeing, time after to time, a rise in violent crimes, particularly against children and women, to Nigerian students, military use of children, dangerous diseases. So, I would say, please join and help us draft a new global manifesto to be based on a common understanding of our shared humanity, on mutual respect and mutual benefits for the entire civil society and multilateral institutions. This is the duty of youth: to change the world. To work for a better world.
MUNPlanet: How do you see the world in 2034, to paraphrase a Lakhdar Brahimi’s article on the future of UN?
Franco Frattini: I not only wish the UN will exist in 2034. I hope its existence will be tremendously more important than today. The UN is vital for strengthening national, sub-regional and continental efforts aimed at peace-building, including capacity for conflict mediation, resolution and management and post-conflict consolidation. A special support should be provided to post-conflict countries to enable them achieve a smooth transition from relief to development. Assuring the peace is not enough. UN should follow all the process of democratization of countries after the crisis. To support the ideals that have guided us all these 70 years, each and every one of us should invest the best efforts and make a step ahead in the collective decision process. I will always firmly believe in the future of the United Nations, but, the condition is a better and pro-active multilateralism.