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Alfano: “As to the sanctions on Russia Europe should decide with Trump” (La Stampa)

Minister Alfano, while London is leaving the EU, the ties between the UK and the US are closer and are as strong as they were last century. This is bad new for us, don’t you think?

«Europe must keep focused on its leadership and not look in all directions. We need to give respite to the Balkans, strengthen our leadership in the Mediterranean, defend NATO and cooperate with Russia: Europe is a global player, a reliable partner in supplying energy and in the fight against terrorism. The European project needs to be relaunched without being afraid that some Country may not participate».

Relaunch it? How?

«It’s time for a common European defence. I am a follower of De Gasperi at heart and in my studies: in 1954 he died with the regret of not having succeeded in giving Europe a common defence. We need to do it and tell Trump that NATO is useful but no longer sufficient. When it was conceived, the Atlantic Alliance looked to the East, now the European army needs to look above all to the South. EU border guards are an important but minor achievement compared to our needs ».

Easy to say, difficult to do. Does France agree? And Merkel?

«Well, not all Countries have the euro or are with Schengen. The Europe of concentric circles may just get another circle ».

Is this an answer to Trump’s doubts about the future of NATO?

«In front of me is the 6 November 1980 issue of the daily L’Unità. Headline: “Apprehension in the world over Reagan’s election”. I see too much prejudice and not enough opinions, especially in the ranks of the Left. Our relationship with the US is essential ».

A multilateral strategy, therefore, in line with Italy’s diplomatic tradition. Right?

«Not a multilateral strategy for scholars, but a pragmatic one that takes our interests into account».

About interests: what about the sanctions against Russia? Prodi says they should be lifted.

«They certainly are not a perpetual, automatically renewable mechanism. If anything, they are an instrument for compliance with the Minsk agreements. But we cannot be hostage of the paradox whereby the biggest advocate of the sanctions – the United States – makes peace, while those who have paid the highest bill for the sanctions – the EU and Italy – are stuck with the sanctions. We would be paying for America’s electricity bill. This is not acceptable: as Europe we need to talk about it with Trump and decide together».

So you are in favour of lifting the sanctions. But what will Merkel say? Can it be done before the German elections?

«We need to take into account what has happened in Ukraine in the meantime ».

Regarding Italy’s interests, what are we to do about Libya? Trump is no supporter of Sarraj’s.

«We are not supporting him as a result of someone’s order, but on the basis of a resolution of the UN. But we were the first to suggest that a role be given to Haftar. The Libyan people are one, and it is in with line Italy’s history and inclination to believe in Libya’s unity. At the same time we need to be aware that unity cannot be imposed from the outside: they need to make peace».

 Will Italy promote talks?

«We did it in the past and we are ready to do it again».

Theresa May has announced a «hard Brexit», but in fact it looks more like «cherry picking»: close the borders but keep financial passports. What should be done?

«Brexit reflects two sides of the same coin. One is the negotiation for leaving the Union: the United Kingdom looks after its own business, and we look after our own. In this case the negotiation will be true and strong. The other is that London leaves the Union but not Europe. They continue to be fundamental allies in security matters and a partner in NATO».

Trump is at odds with China. Can Europe and Italy take advantage?

«We export to China and cooperation has always been good. I hope President Mattarella’s visit in February will strengthen these ties».

The last video on the Regeni case confirms Egypt’s responsibilities for his violent death. Gentiloni had threatened consequences that could question our commercial ties. Will you follow up?

«It’s the judiciary that looks into the responsibilities, but we will not relent in political and diplomatic terms until the truth emerges».

In Italy, the political struggle is between two views of Europe: on the one hand, Pd and Forza Italia, on the other, Grillo and Salvini. Are we on the eve of a major coalition?

«There are two momentous facts that have disrupted the Continent: the economic crisis and the immigration-security question. These facts have shifted millions of voters towards populism and compel the two large European political families to cooperate. We want to change the EU, they want to leave it».

Will what happened in Germany also happen in Italy?

«It will be necessary. What remains to be understood is whether it will be stated before the elections, or vice versa whether it will be denied before and done afterwards. With my party I have the satisfaction of being the first to understand what was going to happen». 

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