Alberto de Filippis from Euronews' Italian service spoke to the former Italian politician and academic to get his views on some of the biggest challenges in Europe's in tray.
"Professor, you held the top job in the European Union and have always been one of the European project’s biggest promoters, but now you seem rather critical. You have criticised the concept of unanimity in the bloc’s decision-making processes, stating that no democratic system can operate in this way. Is the Union no longer working?
“I have always considered unanimity to be very very, bad, so what you’re saying is true. You cannot govern in this way. It’s intolerable not having a proper foreign policy, to have Turkey and Russia in charge of Libya, to not know what decisions to take because we must decide everything unanimously, ever since the war in Iraq. I am certain some European countries understand that. Germany, France, Italy and Spain would be able to form the first group, to finally move things forward in European politics.”
Europe is often accused of being a giant with feet of clay. When we look at Ukraine, the problems at Belarus’ border, and the issue of gas supply from Russia. Excluding the US and China, how do you think Europe interacts with other important powers?
"On the one hand, there is a loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance which has united European countries from the beginning. And then, in my view, there is also a fidelity that is necessary and useful, but passive. One has to say European politics is not made by Europe. It is decided elsewhere by others. In my opinion, even NATO needs a European army. It’s the reason why we complained about not being warned about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. An alliance doesn’t exist where an ally is not warned."
"The Union has gone through a number of crises in its history but the current clash between Brussels and countries like Poland and Hungary seems potentially more destructive. How do you think this might eventually be resolved?"
"There is a clash over the fundamental rules of the European Union, but I am strongly convinced Poland and Hungary will understand what they are doing is wrong. There is a progressive consciousness. Democracy is about having patience, democracy is patience, and I can see the situation changing in these countries, so I am optimistic."
"Since Brexit, there’s been a reshaping of the roles in some ways for countries in Europe. For instance, the new Treaty between France and Italy. Is the so-called Franco-German engine now outdated? Is there any reason for it to exist?"
"No, far from it. Europe cannot go forward without the two pistons of the engine that are France and Germany. But Italy is also a essential part of this engine - together with France, Germany and Spain."
"Let's talk a little about money. Structural reforms are required to tap into the COVID-19 Recovery Fund. The money is linked to reform. This is not theory, but a necessary condition. What is your view?"
"In my opinion, reform is the only way out of this crisis. I am convinced about this. Some economic advances have been made but these steps have not been taken in politics. The message is very clear: everyone must play their part for progress. There is no other way out, other than to make reforms. These reforms were not implemented out of spite, but to proceed in a homogeneous, unitary way. I am convinced the European Union must use all the powers at its disposal to make sure these reforms are implemented."
"It will soon be the 20th birthday of the single currency. Let’s briefly assess that. Could something have been done better or differently twenty years ago?"
"It got off to a great start. But then, due to several crises, because of certain decisions, things turned sour and the euro lost some of its shine. I believe that the need for the euro is still very strong and today it is one of the most important global currencies, even if it is not on a par with the dollar, as we might have hoped. But, it is certainly not a minor player."
"The race for the Italian presidency will soon take place. There are calls for Mr Draghi to manage the recovery as Prime Minister and also become President of Italy. How do you think this will play out?"
"I have no idea because I don't know what is going on in Draghi’s mind. A conscious choice must be made, in a peaceful country, without political upheaval. Aside from that, when it comes to such personal decisions, these should be left to the individual. The first thing to ask is: what are your intentions? Many people think that the current president Sergio Mattarella will stay in office. Mr Mattarella has always said that he will leave at the end of his actual mandate. Draghi will declare his intentions soon."
"You have recently written a new book declaring your love for Europe. Can you tell us about some of the things you are most fond of and why?"
"I obviously start by talking about my city Bologna. A city which has hosted students from all over Europe since the middle ages. Europe has gone through terrible times: the tragedy of the wars, the tension between two terrible world wars. It was only until great statesmen realised history had to change. They wrote the Ventotene Manifesto and the adventure began. These are emotional moments. There are also moments of fun, like Zidane's headbutt during the 2006 World Cup. And then there are things like the Erasmus programme, the euro. European history is sometimes messed up, but it is also exciting."