New kinds of asymmetric and hybrid threats with a transversal and continuously changing nature that makes them particularly insidious are today adding to more traditional challenges.
Furthermore, the incredible speed of development of evermore pervasive technologies exposes us increasingly to cyberthreats, making conflicts even more dangerous. We live in a time in which uncertainties outnumber certainties and the rhythm of change does not allow us any distractions or delays.
Italy has assumed its share of responsibility within this complex setting, focusing on and committing itself to two main themes: updating its Armed Forces — a theme closely connected to the development of a solid defense-industrial base — and its positioning within the alliances in which it participates.
With regard to the first aspect, it will be fundamental to continue reorganizing and rationalizing our defense system by prioritizing and strengthening the joint dimension, to eliminate organizational and functional duplication and streamline procedures.
For sure, updating the Armed Forces requires a solid, efficient, competitive and complex national industrial base to allow us to play a leading role within the framework of major international programs.
This, however, is not enough.
In an increasingly complex and competitive industrial scenario, characterized by a large number of historical players but also by a growing number of newcomers, governmental support to the defense industry is a decisive factor. We are working on our legal framework to give that support.
Recent legislation has been an important step toward establishing Italy’s first rudimentary government-to-government model.
On the other hand, new defense initiatives promoted by the European Union — the European Defence Fund in the first instance — means coordination is key to allow maximum efficiency in the use of resources.
This leads me to the second theme: deepening defense ties among European Union and NATO member countries.
The establishment of the EU Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, in November 2017 was crucial and served two purposes. The first had political and symbolic value — defense was finally recognized as a priority and formally included in the European treaties, after years of marginalization from the EU construction process.
The second one was of practical value. With the establishment of PESCO, in addition to the European Defence Fund, developing joint programs among EU members has become a logical option from the point of few of investment effectiveness.
As for NATO, the alliance remains a fundamental reference for my country in terms of dissuasion, deterrence and defense against all threats.
The alliance’s deep commitment to the stabilization of areas of crisis and the fight against terrorism in out-of-area theaters is ongoing. At the same time, collective defense is once again a strong focus for all its member countries.
Today, NATO, thanks also to the Italian strong commitment, looks to the southern flank, the Mediterranean, as a strategic area. The increased awareness that the Mediterranean requires shared security must also be reflected in efforts implemented within a United Nations, EU and NATO framework to enhance multilateral experiences.
Let me give as an example the 5+5 Defence Initiative, but also ADRION and DECI in the Balkans region, which have proved to be an effective tool for our strategic partnerships.
Opportunities and risks connected with the exponential acceleration of innovations including artificial intelligence, big-data management, automation, cybersecurity and the digital revolution are already a focus. The great opportunities offered by new technologies, however, go side by side with the need to monitor the collateral effects of their implementation so we can identify potential threats and define possible solutions through a common vision.
This will only be possible, though, by strengthening our cooperative commitment and fruitful synergy within a European framework — in the first place within the context of NATO and the EU — to promote a more effective and structured use of existing instruments, making our competitive advantage more robust and increasing the resilience of our systems.
In the future, therefore, we will continue to rely on two strong and vital organizations — the EU and NATO — both well-synchronized with the strategic requirements of our time. A stronger, strategically united Europe, in full complementarity with NATO, can and must play a key role in identifying shared solutions that will give us an increasingly appropriate response capability as well as strategic anticipation.
Within this framework, Italy will continue with conviction to provide its active contribution to protect the full effectiveness and complementarity of both the European defense dimension and NATO so that the two organizations can continue to operate in a closely joint manner.
Lorenzo Guerini is Italy’s defense minister.