A Bridge Over the Atlantic

by His Excellency AMINTORE FANFANI

Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs


UNTIL recently — say, up to the end of the Second World War — Europeans viewed the United States as an enormous, unimaginable country very far away, and expressions marking the difference between the Old World and the New were still in common usage. But then many things happened. We saw young Americans, who had once crossed the seas to defend the free world, return again with their families to visit the lands they had known in wartime, so strong was the bond which had been formed; and the visitors were welcomed in genuine friendship. Plainly these men shared with us the loyalties and hopes of the free world, and so we saw their homeland with clearer eyes.

A point that I want to emphasize—the salient aspect of Italy’s foreign policy and a subject that is known (and, of course, analyzed and discussed) by ever-widening strata of the populations on both sides of the ocean — is our adherence not only to the letter but to the spirit of the treaties underlying the European Community and Atlantic Pact, as well as of the United Nations. Since the War we have constantly pursued the ideal of European integration on the lines laid down by Alcide De Gasperi, Prime Minister of Italy during our most difficult years of reconstruction. It has not been merely a question of remaining faithful to our treaties. Rather, Italy has been endeavoring to hasten European unification, and she is ready to consider favorably any idea which will promote this end — for instance, the direct election of representatives to the European Parliamentary Assembly.

It would be ingenuous, of course, to try to hide the conflicts which still exist within our alliance; free peoples seldom present a façade of perfect unity. But we believe that only through respect for others’ points of view can true integration be reached. It might be said that a bridge has been flung across the Atlantic; nor is this a mere metaphor, for we have seen air lifts —“air bridges” we call them in our language — which are worth far more than any bridge of steel and concrete in opposing aggression. This bridge — our united determination to present a single front to danger — is our instrument of peace and our signal of strength to those who may wish to attack us.

In supporting these principles, Italy is constantly aware of the ideals on which the United Nations stands; she clearly upholds the peaceful resolution of international disputes. Consequently she is committed to the idea that disarmament and the suspension of dangerous nuclear experiments must come about for the benefit of the whole world, not merely for the benefit of those who, while proclaiming peace, entertain notions of military supremacy — notions no longer admissible in the modern world. Peace, we believe, is the first requisite of social equilibrium, the time when all classes will achieve well-being; and no one is farther than we from the concepts of certain authoritarian countries which are seeking, by conquest and aggression, solutions to domestic problems they can never solve, if only because they deny their existence.

We believe that society must evolve through reform, not through revolution. Indeed, we are striving to neutralize revolutionary movements — not by repression, but rather by improving the lot of the poor classes whom the proponents of disorder would prefer to keep in misery and ignorance, thereby profiting from the resultant discontent. Our policy applies equally to the domestic and international scenes. Italy has always viewed the movement of peoples toward freedom with sympathy; but we are among those who wish to see this happen in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter — this was our position in regard to the Middle East crisis — and not through wars and bloody revolutions.

These considerations of foreign policy lead me naturally to domestic policy, for the two are inseparably related. There are countries — we all know them — where, if we believed what is printed about them, nothing unpleasant ever happens. One never hears mention of epidemics or air crashes or even of depressed areas within their borders. Ours is not one of those countries. We regard the community of nations as something like a group of friends who may sit down to discuss a mat ter of mutual interest and, if necessary, give help to the one who needs it. For Italy, this has already happened; everyone knows that in our troubled time after the War our best and closest friends were the American people. In spite of this, however, Italy is still sometimes regarded as a nation with chronic problems which she is not doing enough to solve by herself. This is a mistaken idea, and there are fewer and fewer people, I believe, who continue to hold it. The millions of tourists, including Americans, who now visit us every year realize that we have come a long way. We intend to go on, even hurriedly, in order to put ourselves among the most advanced nations as quickly as possible.

I do not want to use this space for reporting statistics, but let me cite just one: Italian industrial output registered an annual 8.2 per cent increase from 1954 to 1957. This is indicative of what we have done to house our people, combat unemployment, promote the economic welfare of our depressed South, and meet other problems.

In education, too, we have done much, and we still have much to do. Recently we created a tenyear plan which will make education effectively compulsory for all children to the age of fourteen, a desideratum wo have not been able to enforce in the past because we lacked sufficient facilities. The plan includes also a system of scholarships and grants which will enable all our gifted young people to reach their proper levels of advanced study. These aims, I feel, should be well appreciated in the United States, where, we all know, men and women of real talent may reach the topmost ranks of society, regardless of birth or financial status. In this ten-year plan, two billion dollars have been allocated for education, beyond the usual public appropriations. This provides for the building of 150,000 new classrooms, the hiring of 70,000 more teachers. I do not want to dwell on what is yet to come, but can it still be claimed that Italian democracy does not face up vigorously to its problems?

Now I must end this little conversation with our friends across the Atlantic. I cannot help feeling dissatisfied: so much has had to be left unsaid. For example, how can education in Italy be mentioned without reference to the Fulbright grants winch have made it possible for so many young Italians to finish their studies in America — something which, in my generation, seemed an impossible dream? But it has not been my intention to anticipate what readers of this collection will find as they explore the following pages. Distinguished specialists have been brought together here to discuss our aims and problems, and some of our best poets and artists have been invited to put forward their representations of Italian thought and feeling. Many readers may later feel that they would like to know more, and they will easily find books to help them, often books written by the very writers who appear here; and many will then think — this, I believe, is the secret hope of our publishers and writers and even of the Minister of Foreign Affairs addressing these few lines to you — many will then think of visiting Italy and thereby becoming individual exponents of the constant, growing friendship between our two countries.

And so, as I have said, one can hardly speak of the Old and New Worlds; the terms, in fact, are seldom used now, at least in Italy — we speak instead of the western world and the free world, and we mean the same thing by both. These words and phrases, our spontaneous speech, express our true way of thinking, even when we are not wholly conscious of it. Thus an opposition which considers Italy from one standpoint and America from another is inconceivable today. Countless Italians, especially in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, emigrated to the United States; their children today are upstanding American citizens. Although their impact may not have been instantly apparent, it was they who created the prime conditions for understanding between our two countries. Later events, though they may have seemed at times to be negative, gave us more and more frequent opportunities for acquaintance and reciprocal esteem. Acquaintance leading to esteem — is that not precisely the aim of this publication? Permit me to say, in no spirit of discontent, that I have been deep in work, for the chores of public office are many; yet I believe my time devoted to preparing this message for America will have been well spent if, through it, I may make a real contribution of my own to such an undertaking.

Translated by Ben Johnson