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Moavero: “Europe must be driven by solidarity or it will waver ” (Avvenire)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs answers across the board: «Salvini? We often talk on the phone. The difference is that he leads a party and I don’t. But we have never failed to provide assistance at sea. Now the sanctions against Russia must proceed in parallel with our commitment in the Mediterranean. Unless strong positions are taken, this ailing and divided EU won’t stop to listen». The proposal: issuing EU-covered bonds to help the Countries of origin and transit of migrants.  

«The Government is united, now we need stability. Now we need to issue bonds to curb immigration. »

Moavero: «Europe is divided and in crisis, and we are obliged to take strong positions. The sanctions on Russia are linked to the solidarity we receive. »

The Minister of Foreign Affairs takes stock of the work carried out by the Cabinet. «Clashes in Cabinet meetings? No, there is a great deal of positive synergy. And we are aware that we need to last. With Salvini, the difference lies in the language he uses; he must lead a party and I don’t. But we have never failed to provide assistance at sea. » The proposal: «The EU must issue bonds to finance projects in Africa. The Mediterranean must become the focus of NATO and Brussels. Conte is constructive and never divisive, there’s chemistry between us. Believe me, in this Government there is a great deal of positive synergy. Much more than the current narration tends to report. The rhetoric of the “three governments” – that of the M5S, of the Lega and the “institutional” one – is not justified by the facts. We are determined to work to change the Country for the better and we are aware that Italy needs stability ad governments that last and that can be assessed on facts. » Half-way through a long conversation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Enzo Moavero Milanesi uses a resolute tone of voice almost exclusively when he speaks of the climate inside the Cabinet. This is a subject in which he wants to leave no margin of doubt. Paradoxically, his words become doubtful and surprisingly critical only when he talks about the EU. «Europe is deeply divided. It makes me very sad to see the great weakening in the willingness to cooperate. Groups of States stand against other groups, there are continuous stalemates in tackling problems – undoubtedly serious and complex – but not even comparable to those tackled by leaders of substance like De Gasperi, Adenauer, Schuman… No, it is not Italy that risks finding itself isolated; it is the EU that has become an archipelago. We are often alone or in small company when – especially on certain issues – we call for consistency, joint efforts and listening to each other. » All said, he is a convinced Europeanist who, after having served the Country under Prime Ministers Monti and Letta, today, from within the current Cabinet (the only one that could be formed after the explosive vote on the 4th of March), feels the duty of touching the raw nerve of the Old Continent’s contradictions.

Minister, the complexity of this general framework also reflects the complexity of your assignment in this government, do you agree?

The Government’s foreign policy has the shared priority objective of bringing the focus of Europe and of the world onto the Mediterranean. We advocate that greater attention be focused on the South, both within the NATO and the EU.

Where do you think this focus is now placed?

Mostly on the East. Our Eastern and Northern partners are very sensitive with respect to certain Russian initiatives and ask for solidarity: for example, they ask to confirm the sanctions on Moscow for violating international law and the Minsk agreements on Ukraine. We affirm that these same NATO and EU Countries must manifest the same solidarity with respect to the concerns of the Mediterranean States.

Are you questioning the sanctions placed on Moscow?

I am saying that the two issues must proceed in parallel. At the last EU Council, we agreed to renew the sanctions on Russia for six months in the light of a conclusive document that finally – for the first time – outlines a comprehensive European action plan to manage the epochal migration flows. I repeat: attention on the East and on the South must be necessarily focused on a comprehensively virtuous circle, without overlooking any single perspective.  

So, what you are saying is that the EU and its Partner States must urgently put into practice what was set down on paper last June…Do you expect game-changing events over the next six months?

I don’t intend to set timeframes but we must act quickly. Let me specify better: the “voluntary” nature of the European leaders’ indications of last 28-29 June has been criticised, as well as the “conditional tense of the verbs” in the text, with no mention made of the fact that it was inevitable because EU Treaties do not provide for binding instruments in enforcing an effective migration policy. The over-cited Dublin Regulation is not [binding] because it only deals with the right to asylum. Also the migrant allocation quotas that were tentatively and not very successfully introduced a year ago only concerned people entitled to asylum. In other words, only 7 per cent of those who arrive in Europe. Instead, the conclusions of last June’s European Council look at the whole of the migration flows and set forth comprehensive indications.   

Can you highlight the key points?

Whoever arrives in any EU Member State arrives in Europe; the migration issue must be addressed at the roots, not only at the source, which means that there must be investments in the Countries of origin to assure peace, good governance and socio-economic growth; we need to intervene in the Countries of transit of migrants and counter the new slave trafficking to which they are submitted; we must support the States on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to avoid such a large number of people from embarking and putting their lives at risk; for the people rescued at sea, we must establish disembarkation centres in the EU Countries – a plurality of Countries – and not only in the Country that is geographically closest in each specific instance. If we are mutually loyal in implementing them, the June conclusions will pave the way for a new season of authentic solidarity.

How many of these points do you think can be put into practice?

The cited European Council launched operating working groups. Great progress is being made in one of these in particular: our objective is to stop the Navy ships of the Sophia Operation from only disembarking in Italy, as it now occurs on the basis of the 2015 agreements, and also disembark in other States. In only a couple of weeks’ time we will know if Europe is capable of following through with its decisions. Then, we aim to change the Union’s multiannual financial framework to include many more funds for migration policies and cooperation with African Countries than those allocated up to now.

How much money are we talking about?

It is premature to lay down figures. What is sure is that current resources are insufficient. In order to raise more, I think that the European Union must be daring. Its budget revenues mostly arise from contributions from the Member States on the basis of their respective GDPs. We must increase the sources of revenue. I have already made a proposal: taxing those who elude taxes by dribbling between the different taxing regimes of EU Member States. But I think there is also another way: turn to the markets, to investors, with a targeted issue of EU-covered bonds to finance big productive investment projects in Africa aimed at creating infrastructure, jobs and economic prospects in the Countries of origin and transit of migrants. I hope you understand that a well-coordinated European action would benefit all. Over the past few years, the pressure of migration flows has rested on Italy and we have responded responsibly but the response must be shared. Now that migration flows tend to shift towards Spain, we also want for Madrid not to be left alone, as we were for too many years.     

Speaking of EU bonds has often been a corrosive subject …

Concerns arise when we speak of “mutualising” and sharing out the existing debt of single Member States. But my idea is of ad hoc bonds placed on the market to finance investments whose positive expected return can be verified.

Mr Minister, if we broaden the perspective you fail to be convincing on the fact that you “fully” share the positions of some of your colleagues on migration, like Salvini for example…

I am in constant contact with the Minister of the Interior; we talk all the time. We work together with the Viminale staff around the same negotiating tables that are also attended by the Ministry of Infrastructure and of Defence. At times there are differences in the language: someone who plays in a dual role, that of minister and of party leader, inevitably expresses himself differently. I understand perfectly well that other Cabinet ministers have to relate to their respective electorates and militants.

However, these “political” needs have led you to keep people at sea for days…

We have never failed to provide these people with material, medical, human and psychological assistance. Unfortunately – and I repeat unfortunately – we were obliged to take more clear-cut measures so that Europe would listen to us: that same divided and listless Europe that I referred to in the beginning. Moreover, these initiatives were immediately channelled onto institutional tracks and led to the conclusions of the aforesaid European Council already in June.  

And what about your and Prime Minister Conte’s work…

The prime minister aims to re-establish the European spirit because he is a constructive and never divisive person. There is complementarity and personal chemistry between us.

The Prime Minister will see Trump on Monday: is it a test for the whole of Italy’s foreign policy?

These talks will be successful. Among the different issues on the agenda, Italy will request Washington to give importance to the Mediterranean. It is important that the U.S. President’s invitation came very soon after the establishment of our Government, which is also a sign of the team spirit that was established at the G7 Summit in Canada.

Seeing your “European” curriculum, do you think that the budget negotiations with the EU will be the grounds on which to forecast the duration of the Government?  

I reaffirm the determination that we all share in doing our utmost in addressing the different issues. After that, the acts and policies of this Government will obviously be judged by the voters.