Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni is in New York together with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to attend the UN General Assemby. Immigration and the Libyan crisis are Italy’s main concerns. And the kidnapping of two Italians only heightens the need to focus on the Libyan conflict.
Minister Gentiloni, what happened to the two Italians?
«We have been following the case minute by minute since this morning. The Foreign Ministry’s Crisis Management Unit is in contact with their families. At the moment there are no indications and it’s too early to say precisely who is behind the abduction».
The situation in the Country is greatly unstable, especially now that General Haftar took over the oil terminals while he was negotiating with the UN a new agreement with Tripoli.
«During the last few weeks we had recorded a positive fact: the forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government had almost entirely eliminated the presence of ISIS in Sirte. As for Haftar, it must be said that the Italian government and the international community staunchly support the government led by al-Sarraj: we support the need to go forward in seeking an agreement with the forces of Cyrenaica and also with General Haftar».
Minister Gentiloni, the truth of the matter is that the major player in eastern Libya is Egypt, which uses Haftar and his militias…
«I believe that the conditions in Libya are crucial for the security of Egypt as they are for the security of other countries in the region. Therefore I understand and comprehend the Egyptian government’s constant attention for the situation in Libya. Egypt has always said that it supports the UN-driven stabilization process and that it supports al-Sarraj’s government. There is Egypt’s signature on all the documents that are marking the evolution of this political process. Now I hope that Egypt will put in motion its undoubted influence in order to foster the dialogue of Libya’s eastern regions with Tripoli and with the government led by al-Sarraj. And mind you: I don’t think that a divided Libya would help Egypt’s security. A divided Libya would open a phase of permanent conflict, with destabilizing effects on all the neighbouring countries. It is in the interest of Italy and Egypt to work together for a united and stable Libya».
This year’s major topic in New York is that of migrants: what is Italy’s position on this?
«This year both the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. President Barack Obama have put on the table, for everyone to see, something that is no longer an emergency but a structural phenomenon that must be dealt with in a structural way: the issue of migration is a phenomenon that has the typical characteristics of an emergency but it is also clearly based on demographic, economic and geographical conditions that have developed over the decades. Now the UN wants this issue to be addressed by all its Member States».
Is this what the Italian government thinks that the EU has not done yet, as Mr Renzi said after the Bratislava Summit?
«Anybody satisfied with the outcome of the Bratislava summit is blind to the crisis of the Union. The Bratislava summit was the first in 45 years without the United Kingdom, and was convened precisely to start discussing the European Union after Brexit. Well, after Brexit, we find a Europe in stand-by mode, which puts off the problems of economic growth and migration. Precisely on this issue, the Union moves at a snail’s pace in addressing the biggest threat to its unity it has ever had to face. The idea that goes around in Europe is that the emergency arose in July 2015 and ended in March 2016 through the agreement with Turkey. As if the whole crisis had just fizzled out…We see things from a completely different perspective…far from it being an emergency which arose out of the blue and that is now completely solved. Migration flows have been ongoing for years and the problem cannot just be made to vanish. It must be managed and regulated because we will be dealing with it over the next 10/20 years. Italy wants the plan to relocate the migrants entitled to asylum to be implemented. It wants that the approach taken with Turkey also be tangibly applied to Africa. It wants Europe to renew its commitment to pass European repatriation policies».
The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, asks the national goverment to better coordinate the migration issue.
«It’s true. We need a quantum leap in reception and integration policies. This is a challenge for all government authorities, both national and local».
Mr Renzi also criticised the Bratislava summit because little or nothing was said on the “Migration Compact” for African countries. But what are you, the Italian government, doing to steer national policies in this direction?».
«We are working with the Viminale [the Ministry of the Interior] to strengthen the repatriation agreements and to create new ones where there are none. I recently traveled to Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire and I will soon go to Senegal and Niger. A commitment by the EU would be useful in this too: if we invest 6 billion euros on Turkey, how much do we want to allocate to support the African countries? We are considering visiting some African countries with other European colleagues on the repatriation issue. But those entitled to asylum must be hosted: the EU was supposed to distribute 160,000 permits; it has only distributed 6,000».