The Aspen China-Europe-US Trialogue
Between December 2010 and August 2012, the Institute took part in The Aspen China-Europe-US Trialogue, a trilateral forum organized in conjunction with The Aspen Institute (US) and the Central School of the Chinese Communist Party. The initiative provided an opportunity for political leaders, economists and representatives of institutions from the United States, Europe and China to meet and discuss key global governance issues.
The essential aim of the project was to explore new ideas on how global governance could be improved by comparing experiences in sectors strategic both for international relations and for the respective national economies of the Trialogue partners.
The key topic areas discussed included regional security, energy, the environment and the international economic outlook. Special attention was devoted to the role of the G20, and its potential and limits as a forum for coordination and governance.
Aspen for Africa
One of the Institute’s more significant projects was Aspen for Africa, which saw Aspen Institute Italia partner with the Commission for Africa, established by Tony Blair to come up with recommendations on the situation in Africa for the G8 summit scheduled to take place in July 2005. The project reopened national and international debate on the delicate and complex state of the African continent. It was in this context that Bob Geldof – one of the 17 members of the Commission for Africa – called on Aspen Institute Italia to organize the first of a series of events looking at this issue. Some forty representatives drawn from the worlds of business, politics, academia and the NGO sector, together with Aspen Italia members, took part in the workshop. The project also led to the publication of a dedicated issue of Aspenia (no. 29-30) entitled “Into Africa”.
The EU, Russia and the Balkans after 2003
This project involved Italian and international experts in a study on “The European Union and the European space after 2003: policies and options towards Russia and the Balkan region”. A meeting held in Rome, in cooperation with CeMiSS (Centro Militare di Studi Strategici), focused on a series of considerations and proposals regarding strategic issues for the future of Europe. Such issues include the EU’s delicate relationship with Russia in policy issues, security and economic interdependence, as well as the responsibility that the EU is taking on in regards to the future of the Balkans.
On one hand, there is the need to develop forms of admission to the EU “club” that fall just short of integration (the concept of “neighborhood” is a step in this direction). On the other hand, without the prospect of full membership, much of the EU’s magnetic draw is lost in nearby countries. This state of affairs influences the Union’s external relations, which focus more and more on unstable regions such as the Caucasus and the Greater Middle East.
In Search of a New and Improved City
The project, launched at the 7th Annual Conference of the Friends of Aspen (Milan, October 2002), was created thanks to a task force of Aspen Members, Friends of Aspen and Aspen Junior Fellows. In the first phase, the project consisted of a series of meetings dedicated to the future of the city: how it is changing in terms of government, economics and territory; how civil society and cultural life are developing therein. Meetings on the theme were planned in various cities on different dates. The first cities involved (2003-2005) were Turin, Venice and Rome; the events, on each occasion, were sponsored by the local government.
During the conference in Turin on May 17, 2004, “Transforming the city: opportunities and challenges“, the following themes were discussed:
• the quality of human resources as a factor of attraction and competition and as inspiration for the conversion and development of new situations;
• event organization as a means of transforming the destiny and identity of a city.
During the conference in Venice on October 22, 2004, “The creative city: arts, culture and the economy. Producing objects and creating symbols“, the following issues were discussed:
• the enhancement of historical and cultural assets in Italian cities;
• relaunching cultural tourism for economic growth;
• those tools and innovations that encourage a fruitful public-private collaboration in transforming the metropolitan structure into a “creative city”.
The conference in Rome was held on June 21, 2005 at the Protomoteca in Campidoglio, and entitled “Cities of the future: events, services, technology“. The following issues were discussed:
• the relationship between “city users” and residents in the city of tomorrow, and the social demands that the city’s future managers will have to meet;
• services and technology in the city of the future and the role of technology in social change;
• a task for the city of the future: to go from eGovernment to eGovernance.
College of the Milan Universities
Aspen Institute Italia is one of the founding members of the College of the Milan Universities, a prestigious center for excellence in the training of the brightest Italian and international students and researchers enrolled at one of Milan’s seven universities.
The idea of a college for university students in Milan was proposed at a meeting organized by Aspen, based on the experience of a group of Italian students at Cambridge. These students, struck by the differences between the British and the Italian systems, weighed the sense of dispersion and anonymity at Italian universities against the more welcoming environment and intellectual stimulus provided by the British system (the quality of teaching was not being questioned). In an effort to remedy this situation, and to involve both the public and private sectors, Aspen Institute Italia launched an ambitious project in Milan, with the collaboration of Assolombarda and the City Council. A Committee to Promote the College was organized among the Universities of Milan and other organizations.
The Milan College officially opened on February 7, 2003 and was inaugurated on September 29, 2003. It counts 100 students, selected on the basis of merit and educational excellence along with an ability to live in a community-based environment. The College offers its students an intense Training Program made up of interdisciplinary studies on current issues and basic courses of different disciplines. Lessons and courses are held by lecturers from various Italian universities and by visiting professors from foreign universities. The students also meet with professionals from the worlds of business, scientific research, art, entertainment, public administration and social services. More information is available in Italian on the College website.
Conflicts in the 21st Century
With a volume on Conflicts in the 21st Century (published in March 2002 in English only), Aspen Italia launched a series of publications dedicated to analysis and research. Since the industrial revolution at the turn of the century and throughout the current technological revolution, wars have accompanied every development. The conflicts reveal a great deal about the societies involved, as well. The fifteen chapters in this book review new forms of and attitudes towards conflict, offering an overview of war’s changing nature. The authors also spotlight transnational terrorism and analyze particularly relevant case studies. The general conclusion is that both deterrence strategies and conflict management policies must be adapted to current threats and risks. The international security consequences of failed states demand particular attention, and nation building remains an important task for the entire international community.
This project, in collaboration with Telecom Italia Lab and S3.Studium, consists of a series of annual events designed to examine and discuss previsional surveys conducted according to the Delphi method. In this method, nine experts from different fields express their forecasts on a specific issue – in this case Italy’s political, economic and social future. During the Annual Forum, these experts are questioned by nine prestigious opinion leaders and discussants from the worlds of politics, economics, academia and the media.
In the 2002 edition, the focus was on the relationship between technological innovation and financial and economic development. The social aspects of innovation were analyzed with particular attention to the digital divide. Participants also discussed the possible impact of new technologies on public administration and education. Each issue was examined within a broad scenario in order to establish economic, social, cultural and political trends worldwide.
The 2003 Delphi Forum analyzed key elements in Italy’s evolution over the next three years focusing on “new perimeters”. The theme was discussed in a national context, focusing on the fact that regions are becoming richer in autonomy and competences while, at the same time, the push towards a single European dimension is growing stronger. In this way, spatial limitations are redefined, new forms of freedom and territorial mobility are introduced and technological innovations are brought to the market, which reduce distances, speed up communications and facilitate economic transitions.
EU Security Strategy
At the July 2003 EU Summit in Thessaloniki, Javier Solana made a series of recommendations which sparked an interesting public debate on the theme of foreign policy and security in the European Union. The debate culminated in the adoption of a European Security Strategy at the December 2003 European Council. Solana’s document was further discussed in three workshops. The first was organized by Aspen Institute Italia in Rome in September of 2003 under the title “Identifying and understanding threats: reflections on Solana’s strategy document”. The second, called “The EU’s strategic objectives: effective multilateralism and extended security”, was organized at the beginning of October of the same year in Paris by the EU-ISS. The third seminar was held at the end of October, at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs in Stockholm on the theme “The European Union Security Strategy: Coherence and Capabilities.”
Italy in a Global System
This project produced two volumes, published with the Center for Economic Geopolitical Studies. The books seek to interpret Italy’s priorities vis à vis the redefinition of international hierarchies. One priority for the country, for example, is to reorganize its political agenda in order to remain in the group of leading countries of an enlarged EU. This action should be taken in order to avoid being “declassed” which would have negative effects on Italy’s ability to protect and promote its interests.
Italy needs to clearly identify its priorities within the EU and for the EU. These two volumes, published in February and July 2003, underline the importance of maintaining a coherent balance amongst the interests of different sectors on the basis of a broader strategic perspective. The authors advise Italy to develop the country’s international policy in this direction in order to be effective during future negotiations.
How to regulate migration flows: comparing experiences in Europe and the U.S.
To discuss this issue, the Institute organized an international seminar in Rome on October 24, 2003 in cooperation with The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Participants focused on the link between various aspects of the immigration phenomenon in a comparative perspective. First, participants considered the ongoing debates in Europe and in the US, in terms of legislation and levels of enforcement and in terms of the potential “value added” of the EU. A second issue was the economic dimension: labor markets and demographic trends, the impact of the EU’s eastward enlargement, and the impact of NAFTA on the situation in the US. The cultural dimension was discussed with special attention to “multiculturalism”. Security and immigration after 9/11 was the topic of the last session, where participants focused on law enforcement, border controls and intelligence cooperation across countries and agencies.
This project, financed by the European Commission, created the European Policy Institutes Network or EPIN – including Aspen – which followed the work of the European Convention. Within this project, Aspen Institute Italia, together with the Young Entrepreneurs of Confindustria, organized a talk-debate on “The European Constitution: political and economic problems”. This debate took place on May 15, 2003 at Confindustria in Rome. The calendar of events and the related documentation is available at: http://www.epin.org/.
P.U.S.H. – Public awareness on sustainable high-technologies
Aspen Institute Italia is a partner in the PUSH project financed by the European Commission which aims at developing an Internet-based communications tool that allows an immediate and constant flow of information on technological innovation among academics, researchers, businesspeople, opinion leaders and citizens at large.
This project should lead to a clear and organized debate on research and development strategies: research will focus closely on socially accepted goals – not necessarily sheer technical advancement – that might otherwise be rejected by various sectors of society.
The methodology of the project foresees an ad hoc website through which experts and the public can interact. This is made possible through the creation of an online forum – moderated by experts – as well as the online publication of updated documentation and the creation of questionnaires. Through the internet, everyday people can contact authoritative experts, allowing for debate on specific issues of interest to the average citizen. Here, anyone can offer an opinion on the ethical and social consequences of new technology.
The first conclusive seminar of the project – New Technologies: how to rebuild the relationship between science and society? – took place in Rome on June 20, 2003. Participants included members of the Institute, Friends of Aspen and Aspen Junior Fellows as well as members of the press. The seminar was an occasion to present the project methodology and to further the analysis on how the gap between society and scientific research may cause problems to individual citizens and to the entire country.
The second seminar of the series was held at La Coruña University in Spain on June 30, 2003 in front of a delegation of professors, students and business-community experts. Here too, the debate focused on the need to provide citizens and institutions with greater means to examine issues related to technological innovation. Only through such enhanced dialogue can people play an active role in choices that will influence their future.
The methodology and the web platform developed over the course of the year were presented to the Commission, which owns the rights to the project results.
The Bertelsmann Foundation-Aspen Institute Italia Task Force on the Iraq crisis followed developments in Iraq from September 2002 and ended with the publication of an essay on Europe and Iraq in April of 2003. The latest Policy Paper on Europe and the Middle East is available on the Bertelsmann Foundation’s website.