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BIPR | Where Does the EU Want to Go? A Perspective from Rome and Brussels
Where Does the EU Want to Go? A Perspective from Rome and Brussels

September 27, 2021 - 18:30

Pietro Benassi - Antonio Parenti - Veronica Anghel

Event Recap

The discussion began with Veronica Anghel asking Pietro Benassi and Antonio Parenti where the European Union should go from here. Parenti began the conversation by stating that there is a need for three "C"s to be achieved: cohesion, coherence and capacity. By cohesion, he means that citizens across the EU need to have access to the same fundamental rights and have the ability to actively participate in decision-making processes. By coherence, he believes that there is a change in the way that Europe is making decisions, and that this way of making decisions needs to be streamlined in a coherent fashion. By capacity, he signaled the importance of the EU being given the means to achieve what has been agreed upon. He pointed out the need to recognize inherent limitations of what the EU can achieve given the fact that the EU does not have a standing army. He also discussed the role of the Conference on the Future of Europe and marked it as having great potential to shape the European Union by giving citizens a platform to meaningfully participate in the decision-making processes. Yet, he also pointed out the minimal participation of around 30,000 individuals in this platform, which signals that there may not be enough discussions being conducted to support actual reform. Parenti concluded by stating that the biggest issue of choosing a future path for Europe are the deep divides that separate the Member States. Those divides may prohibit them from reaching consensus.

Benassi answered the question by speaking about two critical divides that the EU will have to take into account as it maps out its future path. The first of these divides is the North/South financial divide and the second is the geopolitical divide between the East/West. Benassi also stated that another challenge the EU will have to overcome is the issue of migration, both in the external dimension regarding what policies should be put in place to limit an influx of migrants coming into the EU and in the internal dimension regarding reaching an agreement on migrant redistribution.

The discussion then continued with the questions of whether the EU is guilty of having double standards regarding its rhetoric and its actual actions. A second question referred to the special status of the transatlantic relation and whether it could be maintained in the future. Dr. Anghel asked why the United States needs the EU as a partner. Benassi responded to the first question by stating that it is too severe to suggest that the EU has a double standard and that the EU record of using soft power to incite change is positive. Parenti agreed with Benassi and asserted that the EU must be pragmatic and look at situations on the ground realistically instead of being idealistic. Both Benassi and Parenti answered the second question by highlighting that the EU is the United States' greatest trading partner and that the EU plays a pivotal role in working with the United States to contain China.

Where Does the EU Want to Go? A Perspective from Rome and Brussels
European and Eurasian Studies Series

hosted by Professor Michael G. Plummer

Pietro Benassi
Italian Permanent Representative to the European Union
Antonio Parenti
Head of the European Commission Representation in Italy
Veronica Anghel
Chair: Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe; European University Institute


Ambassador Pietro Benassi is the Italian Permanent Representative to the European Union. He graduated in Political Sciences from the University of Padova and joined the diplomatic service in 1984. Since then he has had numerous high-level postings, including: First Secretary in Warsaw during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of the First Solidarnosc Government (1990-1994); Head of the Secretariat of the Executive Committee, and Coordinator for Environmental issues for the Director General for Cooperation and Development; Head of the Private Secretariat of the Undersecretary of State; Former Ambassador to Tunisia and Former Ambassador to Germany; and Chief of Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. From 2018 to 2021 Benassi was Undersecretary of State at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Delegated Authority for the Security of the Republic, and Diplomatic Adviser and G7-G20 Sherpa to former Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte.


Antonio Parenti has been the Head of the European Commission's Representation in Italy since June 2020. He represents the Commission in Italy, under the political authority of President Ursula von der Leyen, and is responsible for the entire Representation, located in both the Rome and Milan offices.

Prior to his current post he headed the economic affairs, trade and development section of the EU Delegation to the United Nations, where amongst other responsibilities, he acted as the chief negotiator of the European Union for the Global Compact on Migration. He spent much of his career in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade, where he played the role of deputy chief negotiator of the free trade agreement with Japan and was responsible for relations with the countries of the Far East, including China. He served in Brussels, New York, and in Moscow where he was head of the economic and commercial affairs section of the EU Delegation during the final stages of Russia's accession negotiations to the WTO. Between 2007 and 2009, Parenti was Vice-President of Severstal International. He is the author of numerous articles and essays on European affairs and international trade.

Parenti graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, where he also obtained the Diploma of specialization in European Community studies. He has a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
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