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Alfano: «In Libya there are too many initiatives. Let us unify efforts on the UN-led mediation» (La Stampa)

Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano was satisfied when leaving the Conference of Ambassadors organised, as is customary, every year at the Farnesina. At the end of the event, which was also addressed by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, he discussed with «La Stampa» the guidelines for the next few months in the world, in Europe and, above all, in the Mediterranean.

In what direction will Italy’s foreign policy head in the near future?

«We have two absolute priorities: growth and security. With respect to growth, we are working hard on our economic diplomacy while on the front of security, we need to stabilise the areas of crisis in the Mediterranean where terrorists, human traffickers and criminals are rooted. »

What is on the agenda of the Conference of Ambassadors?

«Security and growth. In addition to strictly geopolitical issues, we have done something unprecedented: exceptionally making the Palazzo della Farnesina available to the companies interested in tightening relations with our diplomatic network in the world and a very large number of them accepted the invitation. »

How do you judge Paris’s new initiative on Libya? Have you talked about it with your French colleague?

«I saw my colleague Le Drian today (Editor’s note: yesterday). Italy has reopened its embassy in Tripoli, promoted economic dialogue with the Forum in Agrigento and is establishing relations with Eastern Libya. We support the Tripoli Government but we too are in contact with Haftar. However, our priority is to reinforce the new UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salamé. There are too many formats open in Libya, too many mediators, too many initiatives, from the Gulf to Egypt, from Algeria to Tunisia, from the European Union to the interests of the single Member States: it is necessary to unify efforts and concentrate them on Salamé; if everybody went his own way, we would end up delegitimating him. »

In the light of our engagement, couldn’t France have invited us to the summit meeting between Al-Sarraj and Haftar?

«There are many negotiations open. The French negotiation is not the first and I fear will not be the last. We are favourable to initiatives that favour dialogue and therefore also to the French effort. But I repeat: we support Salamé. »

What kind of relations will Italy have with Macron, who is interested in Europe but also very much in his France?

«We have a brotherly relationship with France. The Mediterranean is a common area of interest for both countries. Macron won because of a strong Europeanist vocation and we like that. For the rest, everybody pursues their own national interests. »

President Mattarella spoke on the issue of migrants, asking the EU for «answers and not punchlines». What do you think he meant?

«Mattarella is in the forefront in defending Italy’s pride for what it has done in the Mediterranean, but also in highlighting the urgency of gaining Europe’s solidarity. As always, he was very clear and wise. »

What answers does Italy concretely expect on migrants?

«We know that the response to the migration crisis cannot be national. We must work to strengthen Libyan borders so as to help the Country stop at the roots the exodus coming the South. Italy is helping by providing training. »

Must we surrender to the idea of a multi-speed Europe?

«That’s right: a multi-speed Europe already exists. We have the Europe of security represented by the OSCE, the political Europe represented by the EU, the Eurozone, Schengen, different formats that not always overlap and configure a Europe of concentric circles. What is important is to understand that a strong Europe cannot stand by and wait for the ambitions of the least ambitious. For example, it is time to make decided progress towards a European defence system and we are finally getting there. »  

Has this trend been stimulated by the divisive election of Donald Trump and the effective or perceived threat posed by Putin?

«Europe must accept the foreign policy line of the new American Administration, in consideration of the importance for us of the US-EU dialogue and of the leadership role played by Putin. To only sit there and complain is of no use whatsoever: we need to fill vacant roles before others do. And the first of these roles is in the Mediterranean, where Europe cannot surrender its strategic relevance. I repeat: a common defence is the point of departure; historically, armies have always been synonymous to political influence. »

Was Israeli writer Yehoshua right when on «La Stampa» he proposed Sicily as the capital of the Mediterranean?

«Sicily is a symbol of the coexistence of cultures. The UNESCO recognised Palermo’s Arab-Norman culture and I have decided to make it the headquarters of the OSCE-Mediterranean Contact Group, which is scheduled to meet at the Palazzo dei Normanni in October. At the Palermo meeting, I intend to present an ambitious cultural programme for the Mediterranean. »

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