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Alfano: “This Europe cannot give lessons to the United States” (Corriere della Sera)

Donal Trump’s measures? “I wasn’t expecting anything different”. The European Union’s call to order? “We won’t accept impositions from anybody, least of all from those who don’t respect agreements”. While the world looks on what is going on in the United States and our Country is on the brink of confronting Brussels on our public finances, Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano is flying to the United Arab Emirates to hold a number of meetings with local authorities and to “confirm the strategic partnership between our businesses”. However, the focus remains on the Government’s upcoming challenges.

The United States president Donald Trump has closed borders. Do you think he will go ahead with this strategy?

“When he was campaigning, Trump said several things and he won precisely because of the things he said. Now he is implementing them. He’s doing nothing different from what he promised to do.”

So you agree with his line of action?

“I’m just saying that our vision is different and has revealed to be the winning one up to now in terms of security. That is to say: no generic matching of migration and terrorism and focus on specific cases. We have combined rigour with humaneness and our results in terms of security stand to testify that we weren’t wrong. Actually I am sure that precisely our humaneness had a positive impact on our security. We expelled radicalised aliens without waiting for Court decisions and we championed the saving of lives in the Mediterranean and the reception of those fleeing from war and persecutions. Security and solidarity can go hand in hand.”

Actually, Trump says that he precisely wants to avoid the chaos that there is in Europe.

“Ever since I was at the Viminale Palace [translator’s note: as Minister of the Interior], I focused special attention on several persons coming from regions in which Islamic terrorism is more widespread, and in respect of whom silent prevention is more effective than visible repression. I am in favour of pluralism and respecting human rights but the security of Italians is our utmost priority and this is why I never hesitated to expel Islamic extremists.”

However, closing borders is an entirely different issue and now protests are spreading throughout Europe.  

“Europe cannot project the image of being incapable of managing the migration issue and at the same time have its judgment respected. It is certainly not in the position of judging other people’s choices. Or should we maybe forget that Europe too raises or evokes walls, even where there are none, like in the Brenner Pass?

Are you saying that the European Union is not credible?

“Ever since I was at the Viminale, I said that it was necessary to place utmost attention more than on African immigrants on European Muslims living in the suburbs of large cities who became radicalised while living in Europe. We all know what happened with fundamentalist terrorism in France and Belgium, and before that, in the United Kingdom. I’m simply saying that integration policies are essential in trying to tackle this threat. Although I repeat that ‘zero risk’ does not exist and, above all, that no State can assume to be safe from danger.”

In Europe, Italy risks an infraction procedure unless it makes a budget adjustment. On Wednesday the Government will have to reply. What will your position be?

“We will never accept a Budget Bill imposition from the European Union that might slow down our Country’s growth process and put sand bags on our path towards development. And this is the opinion of one of the few politicians who are still pro-European.”

And do you think you will succeed to prove you’re right?

“The Union will have to take into consideration the internal political constraints. We are neither ready nor willing to make budget adjustments that will raise taxes. Our stand on this is more than evident and nothing can be done to change it.”

However, there are common rules among the Member Countries.

“Exactly, it would be very difficult to explain to Italians that we have accepted a diktat from an institution that hasn’t even managed to enforce the agreement on the relocation of refugees and now all of a sudden remembers the decimal points on our Budget. And, to make things even worse, in a moment of utmost emergency with the extraordinary budget spending that we have already highlighted.”

Are you referring to the earthquake?

“The earthquake combined to an unprecedented spell of bad weather that has provoked a dreadful tragedy. And then there are the expenses relative to the migration flows which are becoming increasingly compelling precisely because of the Union’s failure to tackle the issue.”

Italy had announced bilateral negotiations with African States precisely in an attempt to stop departures. Has any progress been made?

“We are concentrating on protecting our common external borders. We are negotiating several operating projects with the Countries of origin and transit in order to put a stop to human trafficking which claims so many lives along the Central Mediterranean route.”  

EU Commissioner Dimitri Avramopoulos has praised these initiatives. Do you think that words will be followed by tangible commitments?  

“It is an effort that we have long been promoting both at national and at European level, where we proposed and reached an agreement on the Migration Compact strategy through a strong commitment in favour of an economic and investment partnership with Africa. It would be a failure for the Union not to follow in our steps.”

You are the Foreign Minister but also the leader of the Nuovo Centrodestra (New Centre-Right) Party. Are you too in favour of holding elections as soon as possible?

“Between those who are in a hurry and those who are stonewalling, we are the Party of good common sense. This is why I think there are some issues that we must act on.”  

What issues?

“To start with, it is useless for us to talk before knowing the reasons underlying the Constitutional Court’s decision. Then there is no stonewalling but rather an arthroscopic intervention to harmonise the two systems and avoid two different scenarios in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, thanks to an article, two paragraphs and six lines. Lastly, we must attribute a governance-assuring premium to the front runner even with less than 40% of the vote and single out an objective criterion whereby to offer an option to the candidates elected in different constituencies, in compliance with the Court’s requests.”

So you are in favour of calling a new election before passing a new election law?

“Yes, without using it as a pretext to buy time. Also because we are convinced that this can be done quickly.”

And with whom will you side?

“Right now we are getting ready to run alone because this law does not envisage coalitions. And, should it change, we will judge what is best.”

Silvio Berlusconi is standing as the leader of the moderates. Is there room for a new dialogue?

“In actual fact Berlusconi is at a crossroads: he will have to clarify if he intends to remain in the realm of the European popular parties or if he instead intends to make alliances with radicals. We have clearly picked what side to be on. Let’s wait and see which he picks.”