UK exit from EU would be a disaster – Italian state secretary for EU Affairs

State Secretary for European Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister of Italy, Sandro Gozi says the UK's exit from the EU would be 'disastrous' for both parties

The State Secretary for European Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister of Italy, Sandro Gozi has said that if the United Kingdom were to leave the EU it would be a disaster for both parties.

Addressing a conference entitled ‘From Rome, to Lisbon and Beyond: The Old Continent, Young People and the Future of the European Project’ held at the Auberge d’Aragon in Valletta, Gozi referred to the fact that the UK is set to have a referendum by 2017 on whether or not to remain a member of the EU.

The conference was moderated by MEUSAC Head Vanni Xuereb, and organised in conjunction with the office of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs and the European Commission Representation in Malta, and it was part of a drive from Malta and Italy to re-launch the debate on the future of the EU.

Gozi added that the conference was well-timed since the union is approaching the 60th anniversary of signing of the Treaty of Rome.

“The event is an important one for Europe, including Malta and Italy,” Gozi said, condemning the “terrible” terrorist attack that took place on Tuesday in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey.

“We must stand up against ISIS, these are barbaric acts,” he said, urging Europe to foster cooperation against terrorism.

Gozi described the Schengen arrangement that guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens as “shaky and under strain”.

“The suspension of Schengen can be perceived as a good thing but we need to strengthen our cooperation to tackle the situation of our external borders.”

“We are only safe if we fight against the illegal trafficking of migrants; we need to work on border control.”

Gozi further highlighted the benefits of the EU including flexibility in economic rules to enhance investment and the launch of the economic monetary union.

“However, the EU has been hesitant towards change too often. The EU did not live up to its promise on migration for instance, and we should re-launch the debate on the function of the EU,”he added.

In his address Xuereb pointed out that when Malta and nine other countries had joined the EU in 2004, there was a strong sense of optimism as Europe seemed to be overcoming the ideological divide between East and West.

“Today, we find ourselves in a situation where the European capital Brussels had to cancel its New Year’s Eve activities whereas in other European cities they were significantly curtailed,” Xuereb said.

Social dialogue minister Helena Dalli, also spoke of the need to revisit the Lisbon arrangements to secure a Union that is forward looking, transparent and efficient, connected to society and that presents itself as a strong and credible partner on the international scene.

A panel discussion was held following Gozi’s address, with the panel was composed of ETC chairperson Clyde Caruana, MP Luciano Busuttil, who is also the chairperson of the Foreign and European Affairs Committee of the Maltese House of Representatives, MEP and Shadow Minister for European Affairs Roberta Metsola, the newly appointed Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta Elena Grech and Latvian national Liva Vikmane, who is a member of the executive committee of the European Students Union.

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