The history of the previous Italian presidencies
Italy has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union 11 times since the signing of the Treaties of Rome in 1957. The first time Italy holds the presidency is in July 1959 when Antonio Segni is the Head of the Italian Government.
Amintore Fanfani, in 1962, and Aldo Moro, in 1965, are the Heads of the Italian Government during the two Italian presidencies of the first decade of existence of the EU. On 1 July 1968 Italy, at the time governed by Giovanni Leone, takes office on the same day of the entry into force of the customs union for the six founding members (Germany, France, Luxemburg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy). The customs union removes all duties between the six founding states and introduces a common customs tariff.
The subsequent Italian presidencies will play an important role throughout fundamental stages of the creation of the EU:
– December 1975, Rome. The European Council, made up of the Heads of Government or State of the 9 member states (after the accession of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland in 1973), decides that the European Parliament should be elected by direct universal suffrage starting from spring 1978;
– June 1980, Venice. The European Council chaired by Italy approves a number of political declarations, including the so-called Venice Declaration on the Middle East wherein the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people is recognized as well as the right to exist and the right to security for all the countries of the area, including Israel. This declaration is the first expression of a common view on foreign affairs by the member states. Moreover, as a consequence of the second energy crisis affecting the Western countries, the 9 member states promote a Euro-Arab dialogue on energy-related issues;
– June 1985, Milan. The European Council, made up of 10 members after the accession of Greece in 1981, decides that by the end of 1992 a single European market should be created, therefore it calls for an intergovernmental conference that will lead to the Single European Act (17 February 1986), the first EEC institutional reform after the Treaty of Rome;
– October 1990, Rome. An extraordinary European Council takes place, involving 12 Heads of Government or State after the accession of Spain and Portugal in 1986. During the Council two documents are approved: one on the European political union and another one on the European monetary union. The Council expresses its will to move gradually from being a Community to a Union and decides to create a European citizenship which will add to the national one;
– December 1990, Rome. The 12 Heads of Government or State launch the two intergovernmental conferences (IGC) on political union and economic and monetary union. The two IGCs will lead to the Maastricht Treaty (7 February 1992) establishing the European Union. Guido Carli, Minister for the Treasury at the time, is among the architects of the Maastricht Treaty;
– March 1996, Turin. At an extraordinary summit of the 15 member states (after the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995) the intergovernmental conference for the review of the Maastricht Treaty is launched. The Italian presidency submits a proposal on flexibility: those countries willing to speed up the integration process should be free to do so within the community framework and should help the other countries to catch up with them;
– June 1996, Florence. The six-month term of the Italian presidency ends with the unanimous recognition of the work carried out by the IGC, which will lead to the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty (2 October 1997). The European Council reaches an agreement on the “mad cow” crisis and launches Europol, the European police agency;
– October 2003, Rome. The inaugural session of the IGC for the drafting and the adoption of the final version of the first European Constitution takes place. It constitutes the basis of the Lisbon Treaty. In October 2004, in Rome, the Heads of Government or State and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the 25 member states and of two acceding countries take part in the ceremony of the signing of the Treaty and of the Final Act establishing a Constitution for Europe.