Minister Gentiloni, there an infinite number of issues are on the table for 2015. Shall we begin with Russia?
Regarding the Moscow sanctions “for illegal actions in Ukraine”, is there a softer European approach and a harsher U.S. one, and can you tell us how Italy has chosen to act?
«To tell the truth I have found substantial harmony both in NATO and in the EU. At least in terms of official decisions, on which, I would point out, there must be unanimity. It is also true that this has been achieved even while departing from points of view and interests that did not coincide».
What are Italy and Germany, which have the deepest economic ties with Moscow, not moving together to review the sanctions?
«It is surely necessary to resume dialogue, but that depends first and foremost on Russia, which must, before anything else, comply with the Minsk protocols. In any case, my German colleague Steinmeier and I have a common vision that is founded on two points. First: the sanctions must be reversible; and second: Europe is not an open faucet for sanctions. To be sure, a cold war mentality must be avoided».
We have not come to that. Yet?
«No. The Cold War was an ideological confrontation. The crisis we are faced with here is one of relations between the European Union and its most important neighbour».
What can Europe do in a context such as this?
«It can do a lot, even though no one is underestimating the complexity of the task of forging a common foreign policy».
Complex or impossible?
«Complex. And only those unaware of the crucial centrality of global economic and security relations could consider Renzi’s choice of High Representative as merely expedient».
Perhaps. But in order to make her voice heard Mogherini is going to have to back Kerry. She’s going to need strong shoulders.
«It is not news that Europe is an economic giant, but it still has much to do in terms of political cohesion. And that is certainly not Mogherini’s fault, who is practically starting from zero».
Zero is rather little, given the international scenario.
«I’m a realist. I know that the United States of Europe — My ideal is different from the Lisbon treaties. But it is necessary to take small steps, and we have to be aware that a new multi-pole balance requires an increasingly strong European integration combined with a clear defence of national interests — economic, diplomatic and military».
Meanwhile, we don’t seem to be so good at handling the fate of our Marines.
«Political contacts with the new Indian administration have gone forward. But the fruit of those contacts has undoubtedly been disappointing. What are needed are tangible results, and soon».
Why not, once again, involve Europe?
«Europe is involved. Now we will see if India’s new attitude is followed up by actions».
Mr. Minister, speaking of not exactly successful policies, three years ago Cameron and Sarkozy were received in Libya as heroes. Today the country is in chaos, and General Haftar, head of the army loyal to the parliament of Tobruk, says he is fighting for us against the Caliphate at the gates.
«General Haftar is one of the parties to the cause. The only sure thing is that Italy and the international community cannot accept Libya’s being split in two. At the moment no one seems capable of prevailing militarily, and the only consequence of protracted war would be the consolidation of radical stances both in the Islamic camp on the ground and in Tobruk».
Would you relaunch the idea of peacekeeping?
«It is clear that no one wants to intervene militarily in Libya without a UN-traced path, but it is equally clear that if that path were to exist, no one would even consider advancing without the contribution of United Nations monitors and/or peacekeeping forces».
With the Libyan coasts out of control, to what extent do you fear possible terrorist infiltration?
«I believe that concern must exist, but also that we must not pay too high a political and cultural price as a result. Those who equate the terrorist threat with Islam or migration are making a serious mistake»
Was it right to overthrow the Gaddafi regime?
«I would say that that operation was carried out at a moment of weakness, possibly unique to our country, and that therefore we did not have sufficient say in what would have happened after the regime had fallen».
Don’t you think that the West simply acted in the name of interventionism – there’s a problem and I’ll fix it in function of my own interests? Wasn’t that the post-9/11 formula?
«No. When we speak of foreign policy we bring the focus to crises under way, but we also look at what may follow. Peace missions, cooperation and humanitarian interventions bring enormous benefits. Take the Western Balkans, for example. That was a terrible emergency, but today migration has nearly petered out and trade relations are stronger than ever. Not to have intervened would not have resolved the crisis».
Are you worried about the Greek elections?
«I might be erring on the side of optimism, but I believe that threat of eventual contagion is limited. However the elections turn out, Greece will be taking stock within the European framework».
Minister Gentiloni, your name is quite high on the list for President of the Republic. How do you feel about that?
«Perhaps we’ll speak about that another time. Happy new year».