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Mogherini:“We missed our chance with Ukraine. The EU should have encouraged dialogue” (La Stampa)

Minister Mogherini, people are saying that the change of government in Delhi could have positive repercussions on the case of the Italian marines. Is there any diplomatic evidence to support these expectations?

“The new Indian government corresponds with a new Italian government, and a new dynamic. We picked up the work done by Minister Bonino and have re-asserted the principles of Italian jurisdiction and functional immunity for Latorre and Girone. At the same time, we’re following the pathway of internationalising the case. I was speaking just half an hour ago with the newly installed Indian foreign minister, who is a woman. A new channel has opened up”.

Can we hope for a relatively short timescale?

“There��s no button we can press to resolve this case. We taken all the necessary steps and at the stage we’re in now the Indian position is being assessed. So the internationalisation is proceeding”.

What impression did you get from your talk with your Indian opposite number?

“An impression of ‘concreteness’. The fact that for the first time the foreign minister in India is a woman opens up a more direct channel of communication: the contact’s been established, and we may meet up. I’d like to add that I understand Girone’s comments, which I interpret as meaning: the head-to-head is leading nowhere. This is also the line that the new team of international legal experts is working on”.

Isn’t it harmful to the two marines, and the efforts to assert the right to try them in Italy, when people wave banners with the words “Release them!” as though they were in terrorists’ hands?

“People need to use the proper form of words. It’s something we all need to be careful about because the words we say have a strong impact there. We all need to have a sense of responsibility and unity, as was the case recently in Parliament. And we need to maintain that position in the weeks to come, which will be crucial”.

Let’s move to another scenario. Barack Obama has announced 1 billion dollars for security in the East and has asked the Europeans to increase their defence spending. Is this a form of pressure on Italy to review its military spending cuts, including on the F35?

“I don’t think so. We spoke about the defence spending reorganisation when Obama came to Italy, and again during my recent visit to Washington. This isn’t an ‘Italy question’. NATO’s goal of seeing defence spending at 2% of GDP has only been reached by a couple of countries. Our discussion with the United States is as follows: we’re reviewing our military spending, the point isn’t how much but how we spend our resources. And we famously spend a lot on personnel and not very much on equipment and its modernisation. Italy hasn’t analysed its defence spending for decades, but now, with Minister Pinotti, we’re working on a white paper. With a view to increasing the efficiency of that spending”.

Was the question of the F35s not broached?

“During my visit to Washington the question wasn’t raised even once”.

Didn’t Obama speak about it in Rome?

“I don’t think so, not specifically. The general question of military spending was raised and, as is always the case when you’re talking to the Americans, they said that they appreciated the quality of our participation in international missions, starting with the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon”.

The G7 – which was supposed to be a G8 on energy – is opening and the crisis in Ukraine is anything but resolved. Why is Italy, like Germany and other countries, keeping to a line that the United States, and others, think is too “soft” with Moscow?

“That’s not the point. The point is that we need to look at the long-term. Journalists ask me, at each meeting in Brussels, when stage 3 of the sanctions will be starting. Well, sanctions are an end in themselves, they’re needed as a push towards dialogue. To date, this line has prevailed. Elections were held in Kiev that followed democratic standards, as the OSCE has observed, and there are signals pointing to dialogue emerging from both Kiev and Moscow”.

But people are still dying and Ukraine is on the brink of civil war.

“Even more people are dying now. An Italian journalist was killed too. On the ground, people are losing their grip on the situation and the intensification of the clashes shows that their roots go much deeper than this crisis. When we said that 3 months ago the response was always: the problem is Moscow. But there’s a problem inside Ukraine. The EU hasmissed an opportunity: if it had succeeding in facilitating the dialogue, many things could have been prevented. And then there was the limited viewpoint that for Ukraine the partnership with Europe could have been an alternative to, rather than co-existing with, the partnership with Russia. Falling into the same rhetoric used by Moscow”.

So much so that there’s a Cold War chill in the air… Can Italy act as a bridge?

“Yes. But the real risk, as I see it, is just that: Cold War rhetoric”.