“The tragic photos taken at the morgue in Sfax show one thing clearly: Tunisia needs aid. The International Monetary Fund also needs a pragmatic, not ideological, approach to the economic emergency. Tunisia cannot collapse”. Antonio Tajani, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, is leaving for Washington, where he will meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. He will talk with both of them about the need to reach an agreement for “gradual” economic support to Tunisia as soon as possible: “Only by stabilising the migrants’ countries of origin can we solve the problem”.
Minister, what did you feel when you saw those images of abandoned and unrecognisable bodies?
«I thought of the universal principle, not only Christian, that all men have the right to a proper burial. These are horrible photos, which show the severity of the migration problem. Respect for rights – in this case respect for the dead and their families – inevitably comes from improving conditions in the countries of origin. Unfortunately, in a State which has no adequate hospital and accommodation facilities, the greater the exodus the greater the risk of deaths at sea and the risk of witnessing these inhuman scenes. Tunisia’s economic crisis must be addressed immediately».
The International Monetary Fund calls for reforms that Saied seems unwilling to grant.
“We have been working for months for Tunisia’s economic stability. Italian cooperation has already disbursed 100 million euro; Japan 76 and I believe the EU is also about to follow suit. I hope the IMF will realise we need pragmatic, not ideological support for the issue. It could start disbursing funds in exchange for the start of the reform programme. Funding in tranches can be made. On the other hand, I understand it is difficult for the Tunisian government to accept the request to give up bread subsidies: there is a risk of a poverty explosion. We must not make a war of principle».
Will you also address with Blinken the issue of a greater US commitment to Libya?
«We would like the USA to be part of an action in the entire Mediterranean region, with NATO’s presence but also with investment we can all decide together. Promoting Africa’s growth also means avoiding China’s political offensive or Russia’s military offensive – through Wagner – in those countries. As we are already doing, we must stimulate energy agreements that bring development. It is the so-called Mattei Plan of which Prime Minister Meloni speaks, which should also be framed within an international “Marshall Plan”. We do not want to be colonisers, but partners of these countries».
Your trip to the USA coincides with the Ukrainian offensive against Russian troops. An initiative that will be among the topics discussed with Blinken.
«My visit will be an opportunity to reaffirm the transatlantic solidarity bonds with the United States, as well as a common vision on the Ukrainian crisis. We hope that this offensive will be a step towards a just peace. There will be no peace without security in Ukraine. There will only be defeat».
How will Italy continue to provide military support to Zelensky? Is the option of training Ukrainian soldiers likely?
«Copasir has been informed of our aid to Ukraine: we do not send F-16s simply because we do not own them and for the same reason we cannot do flight training on the said aircraft. Our aid package consists of military equipment, uniforms, vests, ammunition. We do what is needed. We favour Ukraine’s entry into the EU».
In contrast, at the Summit in Chisinau, Zelenski expressed disappointment at the delays in joining NATO.
«We have to wait until the end of the war. But in the meantime, at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, we will decide on a path for Ukraine’s membership. We will decide it all together, without any country running ahead. Meanwhile, we are moving towards a NATO-Ukraine Permanent Council. This is an important step, because it involves Ukraine in international decisions».
One year to go until the European elections: how feasible is an EPP-conservative alliance that would change the current majority in the European Parliament in Strasbourg?
«I believe in bipolarism also at the European level. As early as 2017, when my election as President of the European Parliament was supported by People’s Parties, Conservatives and Liberals. We can repeat that political model. It obviously depends on the numbers.”
There are disagreements in Germany over Weber’s line in the EPP, while in Poland pre-election tensions keep the People’s Party and Conservatives apart.
«We have opened a debate; we will see. Winds seem to me to be blowing in favour of the centre-right, in Italy, in Finland, in Greece, in Spain».
You have the problem of Salvini and his extremist allies.
«The problem is not the League. But we cannot be part of the same family as AfD and Le Pen. We share nothing with them».
Could you be the presidential candidate of this coalition?
«I worked in the European institutions for 30 years, even at a high-ranking level. I am fine where I am now».
How is Silvio Berlusconi?
«His conditions are not worrying. He has brought some medical checks forward, but he will be out of hospital in the next few days».
In the meantime, the Summit with Ministers that could have kick-started a new reorganisation of the party was cancelled.
«Berlusconi had summoned us to take stock of government activity. As to reorganisation, the fact of changing three coordinators is not a revolution. Berlusconi remains the sole leader. We continue to loyally support the government. I am among the founders of FI. I do not dwell on talk about magic circles. Marta Fascina is Berlusconi’s spouse: She is an MP, but also a very correct person. We have excellent relations».