«The relationship with France is guaranteed by European rules and treaties, the Atlantic Alliance and sound trade relations, our geographical proximity and the friendship between two peoples. »
But it is the most serious crisis between two Countries since World War II, Minister Moavero. Do we have to remedy the situation?
«In this context, there can be different interests and points of view, but we must intensify institutional contacts and manage political debate in a way as to overcome a measure like recalling the ambassador. »
Do you see it as exaggerated?
«I don’t want to judge a decision taken in full autonomy by the French government. Rather, I’m surprised to see such confrontational dialectics in this campaign for European elections which, by definition, should represent a moment of democracy. It’s part of politics; it has happened and now we have to come to terms with it. »
Let’s not beat around the bush: what sparked it off was Di Maio’s meeting with the Gilet Jaunes. A serious act, don’t you think?
«Luigi Di Maio said that he met them as a political leader. The fact that he is also a member of the Cabinet apparently created the short-circuit. But this is exactly the point in this phase. Allow me to explain. »
«The current European election phase, for the very first time, is creating direct confrontations between the two Countries’ political leaders. We are accustomed to these harsh tones in our national political arena, but much less so with the politicians of other Countries. If all this remains within the context of a political debate, it is only a question of tones that can always be toned down. But if politicians also hold a position in government, this is when the short circuit occurs between governments. »
Minister, we’re talking about street riots. Of a national wound. Di Maio went and met with a leader of the Yellow Vests who calls for a coup d’état.
«From the statements they made, we understand that the Italian politicians saw the meetings as an electoral alliance. Instead, from the statement made by the French Minister of the Interior, we understand that for them the issue of the Yellow Vests is a national security issue. Therefore, it is more specific from their point of view and we must keep it in mind that they don’t consider these to be meetings with other rival parties. We need to talk with mutual loyalty and respect. On a closer look, a clarification is already under way; it’s enough to read the statements made in the past few hours. Understanding each other’s points of view is the precondition for a dialogue that will enable us to re-establish a correct institutional modus vivendi. »
So, do you think that a mediation is still possible?
«I am certain that we will normalise our institutional relations. Of course, the deep political confrontation will remain between the parties and, perhaps, also its harsh tones. By the way, do you remember when Togliatti used to ask for hobnailed boots to kick De Gasperi with? Despite it all, those parties confronted each other in Parliament for decades, building the history of our Republic. »
The fact however remains that a member of the government should give priority to national interest over his political role, don’t you think?
«I wouldn’t speak of national interest but rather of the common interest of NATO and EU Countries and avoiding conflicts that are difficult to handle. We need to immediately clarify when we speak as party leaders and not as cabinet members. In this way, the fighting between parties does not pass on to the dialectic between States. »
What diplomatic moves do you imagine in order to mend things?
«First, it is the time of diplomacy, with a capital D, based on informal talks and silent mediations. After that, I imagine that it will be necessary to hold talks at a higher level: between Giuseppe Conte and Emmanuel Macron. »
President Mattarella too has taken a stand. And he was very hard on the government.
«It is in the interest of the Head of State and of this government to bring the intergovernmental relations with France back on track. We all said so: it is the common goal of the government, to which I, as Foreign Minister, am entirely committed. »
However, the deputy prime ministers continue to use harsh tones. On this occasion, there has been word of the prime minister’s weakness. Shouldn’t he intervene on his deputies? And shouldn’t he be the one to have the last word?
«When and how to intervene is up to the prime minister to decide. One thing is sure: during the last few years, many of the government’s important decisions have had the scope of foreign policy. This makes it all the more important to maintain a unitary line of action, and this is why there are summit meetings and cabinet meetings, in which it is the prime minister to have the last word. »
Will this crisis jeopardise the already slim hopes of finding an agreement on Alitalia and the TAV?
«I don’t think so. I think that in the relations between companies it is always corporate interests that guide decisions, not national interests. »
Italy has not recognised Guaidò as interim president of Venezuela, isolating itself from the rest of Europe. Why?
«The government is in favour of a peaceful solution so as to immediately tackle the humanitarian emergency and call presidential elections as soon as possible. Our cautious approach to recognising Guaidò aims at facilitating the reconciliation process and quickly come to a vote. »
Government or majority leaders, I’m thinking of Di Battista, ask Europe to disengage itself from the USA. They fluctuate between Chavism and Putinism. Has the government lost its old foreign policy coordinates?
«My position as Foreign Minister sees that Italy has two essential strongpoints. The first is that we are part of NATO, one of whose principal allies is the United States. Also when our opinions within the Alliance differ, we are always transparent and totally loyal on fundamental issues. The second strongpoint is that we believe in the European integration process.
So, do you think that radical positions do not affect the Government’s line of action?
«In cabinet meetings nobody has ever questioned our basic choices. »
Tell me the truth: are you staying in this government to reduce the damage? Don’t you feel uncomfortable to be part of it, torn between nationalistic drives and battles with historic allies?
«I feel a sense of duty for the office that I have been called upon to hold and it is a typical task of foreign policy to dampen the edges and mediate. »