Interview with Gianfranco Dell’Alba, Director of Confindustria Delegation to the EU


Good morning Mr Dell’Alba, could you give us a short presentation of your role in Confindustria?

I am the Director of the Confindustria Delegation to the European Union, the eldest representative office of Italian industry in Europe. The Delegation, in fact, was established in 1958, thanks to the intuition of our predecessors who understood the importance of having a structure here in Brussels to represent the different realities of the Italian industry. Since then, the strategic importance of the Delegation has been growing, becoming a benchmark to the entire Italian economic system in Brussels.

Other than representing Italian industry towards European Institutions and stakeholders, we also defend its interests performing an active advocacy and lobbying activity, thus trying to inform the outcome of the legislative process with the benefit of Italian companies.

Last but not least, another key role of the Delegation is to carry out information and training activities on European policies and on the main European programs and calls for proposals directly managed by the European Commission, such as conferences, workshops, thematic meetings and the use of IT tools such as newsletters, daily news briefings or our website

Throughout these activities the Delegation supports the territorial branches of Confindustria and keeps them updated on EU affairs in coordination with our headquarter in Rome.

Is there a difference between you and associations like BusinessEurope?

BusinessEurope can be considered the “European Confindustria”, since it brings together national business federations such as Confindustria, the British CBI, the French Medef and the German BDI/BDA. While these associations are more in touch with their national MEPs, BusinessEurope is more engaged with the Commission in its capacity of “the voice of European industry”.

Sometimes the interests are not perfectly aligned, such as on the so-called “made in”. Indeed, Confindustria struggles a lot for this in order to safeguard the quality of our products and ensure that they are genuine, whereas similar associations in other countries do not share our opinion. Since this misalignment takes place on a wide range of issues, associations like Confindustria are needed in Bruxelles to defend the national interest in the European context.

Speaking about the Italian industrial policy, can Confindustria be considered the main actor in Brussels on this regard, differently from what happens for other countries?

First of all we should understand whether an Italian industrial policy exists, and if all actors agree on having one without being accused of ”statism”. From our part we claim that the industrial sector plays a pivotal role for the economic development and thus needs to be supported. Confindustria has been advocating a comprehensive strategy to foster industrial competitiveness since 2010. I think, for example, to a document entitled “Italia 2015” that put forward concrete proposals to shape an effective industrial policy. The centrality of the manufacturing industry was also stressed during the Semester of Italian Presidency of the EU Council. The European Union, due to its positioning, is best placed to coordinate the different initiatives and to create the conditions to ensure that every European policy do not interfere with the development of the industrial policies of each country.

Who are your main partners in Brussels?

First of all, we work in close collaboration with the group of sectoral federations and enterprises which fall below the Confindustria’s umbrella, but we are also in close contact with other associations that, although not directly linked to Confindustria, defend the interests of other important actors of our economy. I think, for instance, about FeBAF which represents the Italian banking, insurance and financial sector or Assonime, which represents Italian listed companies. Furthermore, in order to build a truly integrated “Sistema Italia”, we are constantly in touch with the Italian actors in the EU Institutions: the Permanent Representation of Italy to the EU, the Italian MEPs in the European Parliament and, to a lesser extent, with the Commission.

What is your opinion about the Italian Semester of Presidency?

I think that its timing has been unfortunate in the calendar, because it arrived during the formation of the new institutions, after the European elections. Although there were difficulties in registering progresses on some dossiers, we reached two main results: we contributed to a shift in the European Union policies, from austerity to growth, with the launch of the Juncker Plan being a proof of it, and we made it possible to have a more political approach to EU governance, granting a flexible application of budgetary rules inscribed in the Stability and Growth Pact. On other issues there was not a huge progress, but we have to consider the unusual context.

In your opinion the Union is in a crisis that will bring it to evolve or to be destroyed?

As a European Federalist, one of my greatest concern is due to growing national egoisms, which are evident in the lack of a common understanding of issues such as the migration crisis in Italy, and the economic crisis in Greece. However, I look positively at the likely effects of the Juncker Plan as well as to the new ideas in the digital sector. To sum up, I would say that we are at a point which requires us to decide whether to promote further integration in many sectors or to stop the process, thus making more likely a collapse of the whole European project.

For you is it a truth that the EU was built in a too technocratic way?

It was part of Jean Monnet’s idea to have some technicians to enlighten the European path. Then other things got lost in the way. Thanks to initiatives such as the Erasmus program, and other projects, today people can feel Europe closer than in the past. However, we should admit that some errors were committed, like thinking that the single currency could have been the shortcut to a political Union. Of course the path towards such a result has proven to be much more difficult than expected, as proven by the dramatic consequences we are currently experiencing.

Damiano De Rosa
Chief editor – NEU

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