The discussion about greater defense integration in Europe and more cooperation for the development of a common industrial base has sparked a lively debate about Europe’s defense and the trans-Atlantic relationship.
Italy is taking a leading role, as it always has, in the integration process because it sees Europe as a strategic choice and a multiplier of resources to tackle future challenges.
But Italy does not see European strategic autonomy as a go-it-alone policy. It views it as a confirmation of Europe’s role as a pillar in the collective security structure based on the trans-Atlantic pact.
The future of European defense cannot be separated from solid trans-Atlantic integration. Today, just as in the past, the United States must stay connected to Europe and to NATO — at the center of a reciprocal security and defense relationship.
Italy wants to build up its own defense capabilities in the context of this European project. But it nevertheless holds the deep conviction that the trans-Atlantic relationship is essential for guaranteeing the country a geopolitical position in keeping with its ambitions and technology base.
Our country has a privileged relationship with the United States, which is reflected in consolidated industrial cooperation through which high-quality Italian defense technology can compete in the U.S. market and be considered domestic technology.
The defense sector is an incubator of technological innovation that links international security and an industry that multiplies the value of investment — a huge factor in the relaunch and growth of economies, above all during crises like the one we face today.
It is crucial that we ensure the continuation of cooperation with the U.S., allowing Italian industry to carry on offering its products on the U.S. market and building its market share.
It is also crucial to continue investing in the value of the defense sector, and I believe it is essential, even given the serious social and economic consequences of the pandemic, that politicians impress on the public the importance of modernizing the armed forces to protect the sovereignty and economic prosperity of future generations.
Italy is firmly committed to burden-sharing, and future budgets will use multiyear funding to support investment in the defense industry to help its development, innovation and competitiveness in foreign markets.
That means cooperation — particularly trans-Atlantic cooperation — is essential to the success of new programs that will boost the growth of Italian industry and help the attainment of national ambitions.
One of these ambitions is to have advanced technology and a globally competitive national industry to allow Italy to continue to be a relevant participant in the most innovative programs, particularly those launched by its friend and ally, the U.S.
Today, important trans-Atlantic industrial team-ups give us satisfaction and greater ambition for future cooperation, from Fincantieri’s frigates for the U.S. Navy, to Beretta, to Iveco’s amphibious vehicles, to Leonardo — obviously — with helicopters and the F-35 program, which also involves numerous small firms who have been able to increase their presence in the U.S. market.
To better define the aims of Italy’s defense sector, I am prioritizing the development of a precise industrial and technological strategy, which can shape institutional support designed to protect Italy’s technological superiority and the competitiveness of its know-how in the world.
It’s know-how and a patrimony of technological excellence and innovation that allows our industry to be increasingly competitive abroad and part of major international programs, thanks to the continual reinforcement of our loyal and friendly relations with our traditional allies — with the United States a principal point of reference. That means a combining of efforts to tackle and overcome global and technological challenges.
When those efforts are trans-Atlantic, there is a natural multiplying factor of the human, political, technological and cultural resources involved.
In the uncertain world we live in, the defense industry is a solid guarantee of innovation and jobs, and a source of economic relaunch and investment for future generations. It is therefore necessary to ensure that this sector of our economy continues to maintain and increase its technological and commercial relevance.
Italy is aware of this and will continue to give all its institutional support, where necessary and possible, to an industrial sector that is always ready for the challenge of making technological breakthroughs. And I am certain that if the country sticks to this task, our friend and ally, the United States, will continue to support our ambition, overcoming any obstacles to the progress of our nations.
Lorenzo Guerini is Italy’s defense minister.