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Gentiloni: “Yes to Ankara in the EU” (La Stampa)

Gentiloni: “Yes to Ankara in the EU” (La Stampa)​

Minister Gentiloni, while Great Britain is moving away from Europe, Turkey is seeking to draw closer. Eleven years from the beginning of negotiations with Ankara is this still worthwhile?

“Turkey is under attack. Supporting it in its rapprochement with the Union is not a formal gesture. Instead it reflects the awareness that leaving it isolated would be masochistic.”Yet five years ago Turkey was a dynamic and open country while now it is more similar to an oppressive autarchy. What does it have in common with us?

“Ten years of closed doors by Brussels have not helped. ​Now there are two positive aspects that command our attention: the first is an agreement on migrations, and let’s not fool ourselves into believing that this is of interest only for Germany. The other is détente between Ankara and Moscow.”Another country treated harshly. Is there the risk of Europe’s axis shifting east?

“We need to be reasonable. That is an important card on Syria’s diplomatic table, the mother of all crises. We defend civil rights and we have different opinions on the Syrian Kurds. But it is different from being prejudiced against Turkey: this is a mistake Italy has never made.”What do you think about yesterday’s decision by the Senate to provide F16s? Are relationships with Egypt deteriorating?

“The decision was made by the Senate and we respect it. We know that Egypt plays a key role and has an essential function in combating terrorism. But this does not prevent us from expecting loyalty and collaboration on the Regeni case. As regards this collaboration, we want to hear the observations of the Prosecutor’s Office of Rome.This week Italy was given a non-permanent seat in the [UN] Security Council jointly with the Netherlands. Did you hope we would do better than that?

“I would have preferred to win, but the outcome of competitive elections with secret ballot at the UN is difficult to predict. Italy’s sole precedent dates back to 2000 when we lost. This time I am satisfied with the result: in 2017 we have a busy agenda: the presidency of the G7, the anniversary of the Rome Treaties and our seat in the Security Council.” As regards 2017, the calendar of events includes elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands. Brexit appears to be complex.“Great Britain’s decision to leave was a shock for us all. Now we need to respect the decision of British voters and we need to react. We need to be clear about what it means to be in Europe, and the informal meeting of 27 held in Brussels was clear: if you want the single market you have to accept the fundamental freedoms of the Union.”Are you saying that Great Britain cannot enjoy the advantages of the Union and refuse the disadvantages? 

“I hear a lot of talk about the Norwegian model: I hope that solution will be adopted; it would mean maintaining relationships that are quite similar to those of today. But this would mean that Great Britain would have to accept rules on the freedom of movement that are not in line with the ideas championed in the electoral campaign by the promoters of Leave.” Are there alternative models?

“There is the Canadian model, for example, namely the highest level of trade relations. But not the single market without the fundamental freedoms of the Union.”Do you have the feeling that the Leave supporters believed they would lose?

“I notice some surprise, demonstrated by the uncertainty of prospects in the Conservative party. This is what is good about democracy. We look forward to what may happen, but we cannot be inactive bystanders while the debate goes on for months. Article 50 of the Treaties will have to be implemented without delay, as soon as the new leadership takes over.” Do you think a turnabout is still possible?

“Ahh!! it is not up to me to say. This depends only on the British Parliament and on British citizens. Note that there are quite a few precedents in Europe: referendums ignored by Parliament and referendums contradicted by other referendums. We could even hope for a scenario of this type, but we are not going to wait and see.”In the meantime will the Union change its aspect? Did the three-member meeting in Berlin earlier this week inaugurate a European Directoire?

“It would be wrong to call it directoire‘ but the British decision attributes more responsibilities to the three major founding countries. This does not necessarily mean that they share the same views: There is more convergence between France and Italy on issues like support for growth and employment, while on migrations we are closer to Germany.”You suggested a meeting among the six founding countries. Are we coming closer to a two-speed Europe?

“If Europe were to respond to the referendum with a debate on a Europe made up of concentric circles, it would be ready for psychiatric treatment. Leaving jokes aside, the future may very well be this, and we talked about it without taboos on Saturday. But today we need to make progress on the demands of European citizens: growth, investments, employment, a true common migration policy. We cannot nurture the delusion that an agreement with Turkey will suffice. Joint action on Africa is necessary and most urgent.”   

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