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Gentiloni: “Targeted incursions and naval actions for the EU mission in Libya” (Corriere della Sera)

“Targeted incursions and naval actions for the EU Mission in Libya”

by Paolo Valentin

Mr. Minister, how is the EU mission against the traffickers to act?

“The European Council’s final statement clearly indicates the goal:  “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”. The foreign ministry does not define the modalities. There will not be air or naval strikes against the boats and there will be no “boots on the ground”. There is a great deal of intelligence to be done in order to identify the traffickers, sequester and confiscate vessels at sea once the migrants have been saved and run targeted incursions along the coasts. That is why it is essential to have a UN resolution — just the off-shore sequester and confiscation of vessels, or their elimination, requires it”.

Paolo Gentiloni chooses his words carefully. Too much has recently been said regarding the counter-trafficking mission that the European leaders have asked Federica Mogherini to prepare on a dual front: the internal EU operational one and the international diplomatic one of the UN. “Within the month”, the foreign minister explains, “we will find out if the UN Security Council resolution has gone through. The two essential aims are, first, to reassure the permanent members that reference to Chapter 7, i.e. the use of force, is not a prelude to military intervention in Libya, which is a major concern for Beijing and Moscow. We know very well that we have no such intention, but Lavrov urgently underscored with me in Moscow that the resolution had to be very clear on that point. The other concern is to engage the Libyan authorities in this type of intervention, beginning with the parliament in Tobruk, aware however that Libya does not have a single government, as a result of which nothing is simple on that level”.

What timeframe do you predict for the EU’s approval of the mission?

“The draft will be submitted to the foreign and defence ministers on Monday. Italy is among the countries hoping in its immediate approval. We have offered to lead it and suggested Rome as its seat of command. I think the final approval will come at the European Council at the end of June».

Are we on the right track to resolving the migration problem?

“The shipwreck of a month ago could have been Europe’s shipwreck. Instead, it sparked a political reawakening and Italy played a decisive role in that. No single measure will be the definitive answer to the migration problem. It is going to be a permanent fixture over the coming decades, judging by the income and demographic gap between Europe and Africa and the various crises and wars. We mustn’t pretend to be able to eliminate it, we can only strive to regulate it. And some progress has been made at the level of country of origin commitment, cooperation in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, increased collective responsibility for reception of refugees. The only thing that Italy cannot do is think we can just sink them at sea with their boats or let them die just off our shores, as has been happening recently between Myanmar and Thailand. That sort of thing cannot exist in Europe”.

But that progress is still only a proposal by the Commission.

“Quotas have been set by country for the migrants arriving from third countries. The refugees already in Europe, i.e. in Italy and Greece, remain to be quantified and redistributed among the other partners. In any case, this is the first time the principle of sharing the reception of migrants has been asserted. Surely, it is still just a proposal, but one that arises from a ruling by the extraordinary European Council of 23 April requested by Renzi”.

John Kerry’s visit and meeting with Putin after a nearly two-year blackout in top level relations between Moscow and Washington, are a spectacular change of pace in American behaviour. Does that show Italy was right not to interrupt its dialogue with Moscow?

“I told Kerry at the NATO summit in Turkey, where I arrived immediately after Sochi, that Italy very much appreciated his initiative. As the Secretary of State explained, announcing his intention to meet with Putin a few weeks ahead of time, this is not a return to pre-Ukraine business as usual, but an attempt to reopen a channel of communication. His message is that the discussion on Ukraine has been “constructive”, even though Moscow has yet to fully comply with the Minsk accords. Beyond that, it has been fundamental for the U.S. to strengthen Russia’s willingness to collaborate on nuclear negotiations with Iran, where Moscow has been playing an important and positive role, and on Syria and Libya”.

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