Negotiations between Rome and Tripoli to review the controversial memorandum of understanding signed three years ago have not yet kicked off. But the Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni assures us that «It is not true that there will be no more space for manoeuvre after February 2. Instead, there is the possibility and the will to review the memorandum, even after that deadline. Any proposals, however, cannot disregard the situation on the ground».
What has been done, to date, to attempt renegotiating?
On November 1, as announced by Prime Minister Conte, we activated the mechanism for amending the memorandum. We did so by means of a note verbale to our Libyan counterparts, ensuring that the procedure may continue even after February 2.
Which proposals do you intend to make to Libya?
The Italian Government has launched a preliminary amendment proposal phase (involving both the Interior and Foreign Ministries). We have consulted with UN Agencies, such as the IOM and UNHCR, and collected opinions from the world of NGOs. One thing is for sure, respect of human rights is our absolute priority.
Have you received any signals from Tripoli?
We understand that the Libyans have established a committee for examining and proposing amendments to the memorandum, but we’ll learn more about that when we sit around the negotiating table.
When will this be?
It is not up to us alone. I think it can happen soon, but the conditions on the ground are complicated. Unfortunately, the commitments undertaken at the Berlin Conference have not been fulfilled. Without a lasting truce and ceasefire – violated by General Haftar’s bombs and the interference of countries like Turkey, which are supplying arms and troops to Prime Minister al-Sarraj – kick-starting a stabilisation process will be no easy matter.
What are you requests to Tripoli?
The key issue, for us, is to radically change the way migrants are treated. We are aware of the calls made by the United Nations and of the accusations of human rights violations, in both the illegal and the official detention centres. Obviously, we have no “competence” over illegal centres, but we intend to pose numerous questions regarding conditions in the official facilities.
But the UN has suggested to close down those centres.
I think we need to effectively reconsider the whole matter. Some centres need to be closed down immediately. Others, which the international organisations themselves say would be hard to close down in a short space of time, must be radically reformed. In the meantime, the persons detained there must be treated according to international human rights standards and we must make sure that all violent and inhuman actions perpetrated there come to an end. We will ask that the humanitarian agencies be authorised to enter the centres unconditionally, and, inter alia, for the characteristics and credentials of every individual placed in charge of the migrants to be established, from the Libyan coastguards to the detention centre operatives. We need to know who exactly we are dealing with, because, despite all the difficulties in Libya today, we simply cannot allow shady characters to hold sway.
In the past few weeks there was talk of the possibility of an EU mission in Libya, with Marco Minniti as Brussels’ special envoy. Has any progress been made in this respect?
The issue of sending an EU envoy no longer seems on the table. There was not enough consensus to support this.
Will military patrols be resumed in the Mediterranean?
There is a proposal – which is currently being examined by the European Foreign Affairs Council, with technical meetings of ambassadors and top officials – to renew the Sophia Mission, refocusing its mandate. This would, of course, entail military patrols.
Do you also intend to make peace with the migrant-saving NGOs?
Although the issue does not concern the Foreign Ministry, I wish to thank Minister Luciana Lamorgese, who is dealing with the matter at European level and is engaged in convincing her European counterparts to begin a new phase in this respect. The first, albeit temporary, results have not been long in coming, especially on the issue of redistribution.
However, the contested national security measures are still in place. When will they be overhauled?
Our intention is to issue a set of new measures that can answer the legitimate demand for security from the public, while eliminating the mindless provisions contained in the measures introduced by the former Interior Minister Salvini, the only purpose of which was to criminalise life-saving sea rescues.