European defence policies, the crisis in South Sudan, Egypt’s transition and the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. These were the main issues covered by Foreign Minister Emma Bonino in her address to the Senate and Chamber’s joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees. The hearing, in which Defence Minister Mario Mauro also took part, was intended to brief the Committees on recent Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) developments, not least in light of the forthcoming European Council.
Italy expects greater European coordination in defence sector, says Bonino
Italy expects greater coordination from Europe in the defence sector, especially maritime security. This was one of the points underscored by the Foreign Minister, who acknowledged that several EU countries are “a thousand miles away from the idea of common defence”. The idea “does not even cross their minds and any steps we make tomorrow have been hard fought”, she added, referring to the European Council opening tomorrow (19 December) in Brussels.
Minister Bonino explained that, if asked, Europe is ready to provide post-referendum and post-election support to Egypt, which in January 2014 will be called to vote in an important referendum on the Constitution. Egypt is at present “dependant on loans from a specific part of the Sunni family. But economic pledges are not a road on which we can compete: Europe has pledged a billion euros over 3 years, compared with 14 billion in cash” from the Gulf states, remarked the Minister.
Evacuation of Italians from South Sudan now under way
South Sudan was another country discussed during the hearing. The country has been plunged into a violent crisis that has seen hundreds of deaths in recent days, according to United Nations estimates. In light of these tensions, the government has “begun to evacuate Italians from South Sudan, most of whom are humanitarian workers”, explained Emma Bonino. “We are also ready, if asked, to begin evacuations from the Central African Republic”
Overland transit the most difficult stage in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons
Syria and Libya were the other two priority topics in the Foreign Minister’s report to the Chamber and Senate Committees.
On the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons – which in January will pass through an Italian port – she observed that the destruction of the weapons is “one of the very few, and biggest” such operations ever undertaken. “The most difficult part will be the overland transit, in view of the fragile security conditions”, she added. “We shall keep Parliament informed” on the different stages of the operation, noted the Minister.
Turning to Libya, Minister Bonino reiterated Italy’s firm commitment to help the country find the path to stability. Italy is ready to host the International Conference on Libya and is working to hold the meeting in mid- to late February 2014, after the elections scheduled for 7 February, underscored the Foreign Minister.