zmag, Since the inception of the Italian presidency of the Council of the European Union, it's only too normal that Rome has become the hotspot of international political summits to define the future course of EU foreign and domestic policy.
So while media attention was focused on the EU Intergovernmental Conference, inaugurated in Rome on October 4 with an Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the EU (and the protests accompanying it), another no less controversial political event was taking place on the same week-end in the Italian capital: a closed-doors two-days conference organized by the Italian section of the Aspen Institute and by the New Atlantic Initiative of the American Enterprise Institute (http://www.aei.org/research/nai/projectID.11/default.asp) under the auspices of the Italian Government.
Title of the event: “Relaunching the Transatlantic Partnership: Common Goals and Shared Values”; in other words, how to mend the rift between the two sides of the Atlantic, created, according to many, by decision of the Bush administration to unilaterally attack and invade Iraq, with the only support of a scant “coalition of the willing”.
Among the exclusive (in the most literal sense of the word) list of invited guests, besides the Italian vice Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affair and a host of journalists, ministers, MPs, academics, diplomats and top managers from all over Europe, the who's who of the AEI, the most influential US neoconservative think tank: from president Christopher DeMuth to vice-president Danielle Peltka, accompanied by a small crowd of scholars and fellows (twelve overall); among them, Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen, arguably two of the strongest advocates of an endless “war on terror”. Completing the list of American guests, among others, John R. Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century, the neocons front groups whose letters to the President have largely anticipated the current developments of US foreign policy.
So what were neocons doing in Italy? According to Michael Ledeen, the two-day event, which saw guests confronting themselves with issues going from the challenges of “democratization” of the Middle East to the role of NATO in fending off the current “threats” to international security, is one of several “friendly get-togethers” regularly held since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. And as such it was treated by a few of the journalists attending, who provided only minimal coverage, bordering at times on sheer gossip (see for example the articles by Anne Applembaum and Beppe Severgnini, on the Washington Post and the Corriere della Sera, respectively, highlighting the different oratory style of European and American politicians, as if that was the only element worth focusing on).
Yet the political significance of the event cannot be underestimated, if we think about the critical moment this took place: on the one hand, the beginning of the EU Intergovernmental Conference to approve, by the end of the year, the draft European Constitution – the discussion being dominated, among others, by the thorny subject of Europe's geopolitical role vis-