The EU, the greatest revolution in modern historyTO PROMOTE THE UNIVERSAL VALUES OF WHICH EUROPE IS GUARDIAN: DEMOCRACY, TOLERANCE, RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, LIBERALISM AND REPUDIATION OF WAR. THIS IS HOW GIORGIO STARACE, THE BOCCONI ALUMNUS WHO TODAY IS AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA, INTERPRETS THE MISSION OF DIPLOMACY. ALL THE MORE SO IN A SHIFTING GEOPOLITICAL WORLD
Forget the idea that ambassadors and other member of the diplomatic corps correspond to characters in a John le Carré novel. There is not enough time on the watch to embrace that stereotype. In fact, public communication has become increasingly important and frequent, and thus also diplomacy has changed by opening up to social networks and looking at new areas of expertise such as the green economy, robotics and Artificial Intelligence. "To reflect the ambassador’s spy story image, I would need a second life. Because diplomats need now to be present and proactive characters on the public scene", says Giorgio Starace, Italian ambassador to Moscow since October 2021, and Class of ’82 Bocconi Alumnus, to Via Sarfatti 25.
An ambassador and his team must be good communicators with antennas always attuned to current events, especially considering the new multipolar geopolitical world, from China to India, from the US to Brazil, from Russia to Indonesia, and other countries that are emerging as protagonists on the international arena. Our commitment is promoting a European pole that is guardian of universal values such as democratic freedoms, tolerance, respect for human rights, liberalism and the repudiation of war". And it is precisely from the valorization of these that are cultural pillars for Italy, as well as the European Union that dialogue between peoples will be able to restart in the future, even with Russia, according to Starace (who has been in the diplomatic corps since 1985).
Diplomacy remains the only alternative to war in solving international conflicts. But how can you spread the values you cite more effectively?
Both the channels with which we communicate and the formats of what we communicate must be constantly updated. It is necessary to devote a lot of time to social media platforms and all the mobile platforms frequented by young people, who are the citizens and consumers of tomorrow. As for the format, Italy in particular has a lot of soft power, which is translated into popular kinds of content that portray the Italian way of life and generate cross-border interest. In this case too, they are universal values, because you can live them anywhere in the world according to tricolor principles, although these need to be conveyed with strong and penetrating messages through institutional profiles. It is no coincidence that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently created a general directorate for public and cultural diplomacy, something which confirms this orientation.
However, many Italian characteristics that have appeal in the world also mean different areas in which to intervene and always be competent…
This is the reason why the training course of the diplomatic corps is fundamental. In addition to communication, the diplomat’s syllabus is being enriched on the economic side, following among other things the progressive growth of a green and circular economy. But sciences and new technologies must also be studied, including for example robotics and AI, without neglecting other areas such as medicine at the service of older generations or the development of space infrastructure. The subjects are many and the important thing is to give a vision of the future that Italy and Europe want to achieve, especially when it comes to mature economies that must find new production cycles for their own country systems. In this sense, Italy is doing a lot and diplomacy must be able to support this endeavor.
Italian and European values coincide and are universal, but still the EU does not have yet a sole voice in foreign affairs. Moreover, direct contacts between governments often seem to reduce the scope and role of EU diplomacy. How come?
Expanding the role of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is certainly a decision to be taken as soon as possible. That said, periodic consultation and coordination are maintained among the 27 member countries and, at least in Italy, it does not happen that a member of the executive calls his foreign counterpart without the diplomatic corps having provided the supporting information material. The relationship with the Farnesina (Italian Foreign Ministry HQ) is constant.
How do you see the future of Italy-Russia relations? Will the Atlantic orientation of the Peninsula make the presence of Italian companies in Russia more difficult?
As an ambassador of Italy, I am an ambassador who believes more than ever in the Western Alliance and, likewise, I believe in the European challenge. I maintain contact with the Russian government, despite the current difficulties; Italy clearly states its opinion and the Russian counterpart responds with its own narrative. We continue undeterred to push for negotiations and an end to hostilities. But, recalling the importance of having a vision of the future, I think that it will be cultural relations that will restart the dialogue between the two countries, when this is possible. The economic repercussions of the conflict, especially in sectors such as energy, will depend on the evolution of the war but it remains true that the Italian people and the Russian people have known each other for centuries and have had diplomatic relationships accordingly.
What experience from your diplomatic past do you think will help you the most?
I got great satisfaction from the diplomatic advances that Italy made when I was Special Envoy to Libya. Even though the North African country is now facing new difficulties, we have worked firmly in favor of the country’s democratic experiment and we have pursued its consolidation, once again in tandem with our European and Atlantic partners. After all, I believe that the EU is the greatest revolution in modern history. The reason? It almost made member countries forget the concepts of war and nationality.
by Camillo Papini
Translated by Alex Foti