ROME – Minister Tajani, the Coast Guard says that NGO ships slow down rescue operations. Doesn’t it seem to you that Italy cannot afford a constant clash with those who save lives at sea? Isn’t there another way to cooperate?
«If there are rules they must be respected: The State is doing everything in its power. There are no preconceived ideas and attitudes against the NGOs. There are laws, and relentless work by everyone, by our Coast Guard and our Navy. For two months we have been saying – in all international fora and negotiating tables – what is going to happen: we have to help Tunisia with funding from the IMF and the World Bank, providing at least first aid while waiting for reforms and a check on progress. By now it is like a dog chasing its own tail, the financial emergency fuels the migrant emergency».
Tunisia risks becoming a failed state. Italy is lobbying the IMF to release the necessary aid, but the United States seems to oppose it.
«Everyone is taking action, let us not make the mistake of leaving Tunisia to the Muslim Brotherhood. The EU is also taking action, European Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni went today there. France is also looking more closely at the problem, after Macron’s meeting with Prime Minuster Meloni. As to the United States, I can only say that we are talking to everyone, we support a compromise solution: to provide initial support, because the Tunisians say that without money they cannot make reforms. If then the EU or the IMF do not intervene and China or Russia do, how do we deal with it?»
The EU’s first concrete steps could be new patrol boats to North African countries and more maritime surveillance systems, but they seem to be stopgap measures that have not worked in the past.
«In the meantime we do what we can immediately. Then, of course, we need a strategic intervention for Africa. Climate change is destroying agriculture in many countries and if we do not intervene with a sort of Marshall Plan we will always be chasing emergencies. There is a situation of growing instability that must be addressed with long-term measures, not only by the EU, but also by the United Nations and the Monetary Fund».
Is it not the case that you are asking the EU for something it cannot do because of its structure and institutional boundaries?
«The EU is stronger than Italy. There are several routes to manage and control, starting with the Balkan route. It is a common interest of many EU Member States to stop illegal immigration».
What is the Italian proposal: why have you never drawn up a systematic and comprehensive one?
“We have always made proposals, then the Commission has to draw them up. We need all States’ will to tackle the problem in depth. For the additional reason that in many cases Italy is just the border, with most of the migrant people wanting to go to other countries, ranging from Germany to Finland ».
What is the point of missions to Tunisia or Libya if today the underlying and fundamental problem is the Sahel region?
«The problem is not only the Sahel region. Stabilising and strengthening the States’ institutional structures in North Africa serves many purposes: saving lives, better managing flows and fighting trafficking by criminal organisations».
As to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, when will you put an end to the negotiations with the EU? When will there be a transparent and detailed picture of the planned works and the related timeframes?
«We are working to solve all the problems. We have inherited projects that need to be changed. It is not an easy task. We have been ruling the country for five months and we have no magic wand, but we are moving in the right direction».
Biofuels, why has Germany obtained what it wanted without making any big public statements and we instead are protesting in public without reaching any concrete results?
«Let us see what will happen when the negotiations are concluded. We are trying to broaden the front of countries that support our stance. I hope that everyone will realise that these goals are not achievable. In the meantime, a front that seemed closed has opened up».
How do you explain the power struggle within Forza Italia?
«We have neither decapitated nor weakened anyone. There is a leader called Berlusconi and a party that is constantly making adjustments to operate better in view of the next European elections».