Villa Madama is actually much more than that. As for the most of the meetings, which it hosts in more or less disguised way, its name could also fool you, at least at first moment. It is a beautiful late Renaissance castle, located almost in the centre of Rome, with preserved gardens and rich history of ownership. It is now used by the Italian government, for holding of international meetings, and even more by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for meetings and consultations with no press releases, but the announcements that remain more or less the property of the participants in the conversation.
One such meeting was held on Tuesday, February 9 of this year. In fact, it was marked as an informal and discreet dinner, of quite informal gathered company, which will, ahead of the upcoming celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, whose execution established the European Economic Community, exchange a few words on the preparations for the celebration of this important anniversary. However, it soon became clear that it was about something much bigger.
The foreign ministers of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, therefore, the original signatory countries of the European treaty were invited to dinner with a carefully selected menu. The question that dominated the introduction into the discussion was only one – are we still talking about the same European values and interests discussed all these years ago at the meeting, which also meant the actual end of a long period, which was primarily the period of wars, and the beginning of a new cooperation, solidarity and coexistence?
Beyond that relatively innocent inquiry, which could be anyway attributed to an evening discussion of well-informed interlocutors, almost crucial question related to Slovenia is manifesting too as well.
Perhaps the most important question for our country after the independence.
However, it was no longer just a question, it was a reflection on possible new and stronger binding connection of the most connected part of the European Union.
Indeed, it was about something more than the content of the proposals from a few months ago about some mini Schengen area. Those latest proposals were the result of the daily verifiable facts that the refugee wave that has selected European countries as its final destination would not end, and that many more immigrants would arrive in Europe in a much shorter time than expected. At the same time, this means that there is no sufficient and necessary control at the external Schengen borders, especially the Greek and the Turkish one, that individual European countries have taken unilateral measures due to this and that it is necessary to again determine the European area of free movement and flow of goods and services.
Meeting at Villa Madama was much more specific. Of course, in that too, at least starting from the estimation that it is necessary to control migration movements and that Europe cannot and must not be the only continent that would be required to resolve this terrible and horrible humanitarian problem.
At the same time, they have probably remembered related inconsistencies and forgetting of fulfilment of obligations. Such as, for example, the one that units numbering 60,000 men aimed at a rapid intervention should be formed in the EU, in accordance with the Maastricht Treaty, although they could represent a key part of the defence of European external borders today. This would have made the current negotiations with the Republic of Turkey much different. They would have not been the negotiations on how many refugees for how much money, or on the current visa liberalization and the opening of five negotiation chapters, but negotiations on cooperation in resolving complicated and sensitive humanitarian issue of large refugee wave.
The participants in the dinner have made a step further from such description of conditions and concluded that the migrant crisis has only accelerated the flow of changes in the European Union. First with a weakened role of France, announced referendum in UK on leaving the EU and at the very end, with seeking of new roles for Visegrad Four, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Quite in accordance with the thesis clearly explained by the president of the Hungarian Parliament László Kövér in recent dialogue with Saša Vidmajer. That a group of these countries, in which the leading role must be played by Poland, has always been a strong group within the EU, which they have never specially emphasized. But that now the time has come for them to engage in political decision making in accordance with their strength. This alliance of Polish President Duda and Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán becomes correspondingly loud and demanding.
Possible and expected further discussion on connection of the most connected EU countries is crucial and decisive for Slovenia.
Closer connection of the integrated core of the old Europe, as they said at the dinner, which will celebrate the same values with high jubilee anniversary, can place Slovenia in an entirely new and undesirable situation. In the area that would adjoin the newly integrated European core of the countries that want to be more connected and possibly less connected group of Visegrád countries and neighbouring Croatia and other Western Balkan countries.
Group of Visegrád countries is not interested, and even less prepared for new expansions. Perhaps this could be best seen precisely from the attempts of Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović for more close connection with this group of states and Croatian withdrawal from the region. There are no political results of her initiative, on which I wrote in detail exactly here a few months ago. And there won’t probably be any.
This is why the news about the new meeting of the Roman six, that is, the states representing the importance of closer alliances between the countries of the European Union is even more important. This meeting should be held in the extended format during first days of April, and the government of Dr. Miro Cerar should receive an invitation for it, supposedly, together with the Austrian, Spanish, Portuguese, and perhaps some other governments.
Three criteria will be decisive for April invitation – macro-economic stability of the country, economic performance, as well as ways of cooperation in solving the refugee and migrant wave. Slovenia has a successful export industry, good and confidential relations of its minister of finance with key European colleagues and an initiative on the control of the migrant flows proposed at the right time. And not quite at the end, Slovenia wishes, as the president Borut Pahor consistently highlights, to have regulated relations with its neighbouring countries. With Croatia as well.
In fact, an invitation would be sent to all those European countries that want a long-term European future and share, as it is written in the Roman communiqué, deeper and bigger integrations. Primarily because they estimate that the structure and construction of the EU, established in the last decades, is threatened today. Common currency and the Schengen regime open borders are threatened, and the fate of the announced British referendum is not known.
The dialogue at Villa Madama can be understood this way: there can be primarily two answers – deeper integration or a new European fragmentation, which would cause the awakening of all the problems marking the European history of the first half of the 20th century and centuries before that.
This is why the invitation to Slovenian government for a new meeting in April is so important and crucial.