The Minister for Foreign Affairs was quoted after the tragedy at Lampedusa: “the largest economic area in the world cannot spend so little on a humanitarian crisis that everyone considers intolerable”.
Interview by Vincenzo Nigro
Minister Gentiloni, the government has been accused of wrongly replacing Mare Nostrum? What is your response?
“Let’s try and avoid petty political disputes when faced with such horrible tragedy. Italy has done and continues to do more than anyone else, and the international community has acknowledged that. Unfortunately it’s not enough, Triton will not suffice, we have to do more”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni is just back from a visit to New York during which he met with, among others, Hillary Clinton, Mayor De Blasio and Henry Kissinger. The main discussions in New York and in recent hours have remained focused on the Ukraine crisis. But on the question of migrants, Gentiloni made an announcement: “We call upon the European Union to do much more for Triton. The cost of this mission is 3.9 million euros a month, but it has become clear that more is needed. For that reason, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini has already called for a meeting of all the EU commissioners that have a say in the matter. I hope this will be the start of a new phase. It must be clear that increased humanitarian involvement will not be enough. Premier Renzi raised the issue at the European Council, starting from the need to stabilise Libya. Strongly united in its commitment to Ukraine, Europe must now dedicate some time and resources to the Mediterranean emergency”.
But Mr. Minister, after the 300 deaths of recent hours what is the government’s strategy on immigration?
“The point is not the difference between Mare Nostrum and Triton. The first has a radius of action of up to 50 miles, the second of up to 30, but that’s not the point, given that Libya and Italy lie 200-300 miles apart and both are obligated to provide rescue at sea. The resources available are what make the difference in the quantity and quality of naval and aircraft engaged: this must not be solely an Italian problem. Is it possible that a united Europe, the largest economic area in the world, can spend so little for an emergency that everyone considers intolerable? Before coming to these final 200 miles, those migrants have already made a 1000-mile journey escaping from Syria, Eritrea or central Africa. That is why our intervention has to go beyond the present emergency to the countries of transit, such as Libya and Turkey, and the countries of origin, from the Middle East to the Horn of Africa, where this terrible journey begins”.
Renzi has repeatedly been quoted lately as saying that the problem for Italy is the chaos in Libya.
“Of the 278,000 illegals that arrived in Europe in 2014, 170,000 arrived in Italy and of those a good 142,000 from Libya — some calculations place trafficking in migrants as accounting for 10% of the country’s GDP, since oil production has slumped considerably. We are working with partners such as Turkey on stopping the larger boats from leaving, seven of which set sail over recent months with crews capable of abandoning the migrants to their own devices once offshore. We are facing a different situation in Libya, one of a non-State where criminal groups are extremely active. The road to political stabilisation and national reconciliation is going to be very long, and here too Italy is increasingly involved and will continue to be so”.
Mr. Minister, a ceasefire in Ukraine was announced a few hours ago.
“Five months on from the Minsk 1 memorandum, political negotiations and encounter have resumed, and is the goal that Italy has always sought. We must recognise the German Chancellor and French President’s successful efforts to regenerate political negotiation, of which Europe must be proud, not suspicious.
Do you not think that Putin has been granted too much, especially the power to decide the fate of another country, for instance by impeding Ukraine’s entry into NATO?
“Ukraine’s entry into NATO would be a complete mistake. Let’s look at the facts: Minsk produced a 12-point agreement. There are some elements that favour one side and some the other, with a view to avoiding the kind of dangerous deviation that might have pushed Europe toward an even more radical conflict. The challenge that awaits us now is enormous, but we have the tools to meet it. There are no guarantees, but a new phase has finally begun and everyone must lend it their support”.