Upon leaving Vienna on Monday, Gabriel continued on south across the Alps ‑ the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano were waiting to meet him in Rome. The talks in Rome were significant not only because of the special relationship between Germany and Italy.
60 years ago, treaties were signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill in the heart of Rome, which came to form the foundation of the European Union. Gathered in this Renaissance palace, representatives of France, Italy, Germany and the Benelux states signed what came to be known as the Treaties of Rome, and thereby established the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.
One issue in particular topped the agenda for the talks on Monday between Gabriel and his Italian interlocutors: the future of the European Union. Brexit, the rise of populism and controversies on subjects such as migration and financial policy ‑ the challenges for community-wide European policy are tremendous.
The Italian Foreign Ministry is located in the Palazzo della Farnesina, the largest building in all of Italy. In between antique sarcophagi and Renaissance tapestries, the ups and downs of Europe’s common history are very much visible in this monumental edifice from the 1930s. Here Foreign Ministers Sigmar Gabriel and Angelino Alfano intensely debated how the European Union could be taken forward.
“Europeans must not abandon one another”
Both Foreign Ministers agreed that Europe needs solidarity and must be defended with commitment. “Europeans must not abandon each other – be it with respect to youth unemployment or to migration,” Gabriel said at his joint press conference with Alfano. Gabriel stressed that the difficult economic situation in many southern European countries had to be tackled by the European partners in a spirit of solidarity, as did the challenges created by the migration of hundreds of thousands of people to Europe.
Remembering the Treaties of Rome, signed 60 years ago, Gabriel called for greater optimism and resolve. He noted that back then it was much harder for politicians from the countries devastated by the war to argue for cooperation with neighbours who had so recently been mortal enemies. “There is no reason why we today should have less courage,” Gabriel stated. He stressed that it was now more important than ever to campaign resolutely for European cooperation: “In tomorrow’s world even the voices of big countries like Germany or Italy will no longer be heard on their own.”
“There is no reason why we today should have less courage”
After his talks with Angelino Alfano, Gabriel crossed the Tiber to the Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of the Italian Prime Minister. Gabriel spoke privately with Prime Minister Paolo Gentilioni in this sixteenth century palace. They, too, focused on cooperation within the European Union.