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Interview with La Stampa by Minister Di Maio


Di Maio begins by saying: on the ESM it is possible to negotiate

Sitting in his office at the Foreign Ministry seat, the Farnesina, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio uses the impersonal tone of a mathematician enunciating a theorem. Still, if he could, he would say that Italy is tired of being treated by Europe like the broken nail of a dirty hand. The coronavirus is everyone’s problem caused by no one, certainly not by us, and the country needs money, a lot and immediately, not to end up in crumbs. The GDP is destined to sink by eight points, the deficit to rise by more than ten. The former political leader of Five Star Movement observes that Brussels is hardly ever in time for the schedule. Still, he does not exclude an ESM without conditionality, conceding that “with Europe, the battle is merely focused on the concept that ‘working off the books is a crime’, but no father can find himself in the condition of not being able to feed his children. My father is 70, my mother 65. On 4th May I will invite them to follow the rules that will establish the government started”. And in this interview with La Stampa, the Ministry calls for a precise and rapid time frame for the Recovery Fund. The alternative is a disaster. Not an Italian disaster, but a disaster of the entire Community.

Minister Di Maio, today is 25th April, the feast of Liberation from Fascism. How can we free ourselves from the crisis?

“Today is a national holiday, the holiday of the whole country and we must be able to take up the commitment, the spirit and the sacrifice of our grandparents’. Because what we have in front of us, even if it is not a war, has the appearance of one and causes the same effects”.

Italy will pay a higher price compared to other countries.

“The forecasts are negative for all the countries affected. We have high public debt, but the objective is one: to get the country back on track. Failure is not an option. Our companies must restart, workers must maintain their jobs, families must live peacefully. We have reminded Europe that the destiny of each country is tied to the destiny of the others; no one is to blame for this pandemic. We are not facing the crisis of 2008. Italy has already paid an extremely high price with its death toll; it would be unfair to add further burdens”.

Why should Europe give us non-refundable money?

“Well, non-refundable financing doesn’t mean money given away. It means entering a circuit where the Commission’s financial resources must be returned anyway. France, Spain and Portugal have the same stance. We are only asking for a concrete form of solidarity”.

Would you give non-returnable money to Austria or Spain?

“You are using an inappropriate verb; it is not a gift. This is about finding a financial plan so that the gaps between countries are not widened and so that we can get everyone back together as quickly as possible. If you want to use that verb, it is a gift that Europe gives to itself”.

Suddenly you are no longer against the ESM?

“I’m making a wider reflection on the EMS. We have people against Italy on the one hand, and I find that disconcerting. On the other hand, we have those who consider the EMS national salvation. That is not true either. We must be pragmatic. This is the game of life for us. And it is not over yet. This is just the beginning.”

Did Giorgia Meloni’s agenda, which called for the rejection of ESM, confront the Movement with its contradictions?

“No contradiction, I found it a masquerade. Parliament has an absolute value; it cannot be treated like someone’s stage”.

Greece and Spain are in favour of ESM.

“They are in favour of an instrument that, still on paper, would seem without conditions. For now, we are in the field of intentions”.

I quote President Conte: the resources of the Recovery Fund are urgent and necessary.

“Conte is right. Today there are two fundamental aspects: the amount of money and the timing of the allocation. Especially the timing, which must be certain. Italy cannot wait. We must not make the mistake of thinking that we have emerged from the coronavirus emergency, we must not think that we have already won in Europe”.

How will you use European funds?

“Giving oxygen back to businesses will be a priority. It will serve to guarantee our competitiveness. The export will become crucial in the face of a possible downturn in domestic demand. Then we will have to support the welfare state, helping those who do not make it to the end of the month”.

The debt will rise to 155% of the GDP. A tribute to our children?

“No one must pay for the effects of this pandemic, neither the children nor the current generations who have already experienced the crisis of 2008. Europe must be aware of this”.

What is the role of Mr Colao, super minister or advisor?

“Colao is a great manager and a great professional; he is supporting the government in phase 2, the most difficult phase.

Would it surprise you to see him after the summer?

” Well, after Draghi now it is the turn of Colao. What will be the third name that will be used to eliminate Conte? In what other country affected by a pandemic is the media debate focusing on the possibility of a new government?”.

Who will receive the 55 billion of the April decree?

“The deviation approved yesterday by the Council of Ministers is one of the greatest manoeuvres ever. The 55 billion will be used to give new resources to companies, to finance the social shock absorbers in favour of workers, to support the health system and to introduce protection instruments for all citizens in difficulty, especially for the self-employed and VAT numbers”.

Is it right to insist on emergency income?

“Yes. And there is broad consensus in the majority. I wanted and signed the citizenship income law, thanks to which today almost 3 million people can eat. You see, sometimes we don’t realise it, everyone lives in his own world, and it’s hard to think, even though I know it, that in Italy many families can’t even afford to buy meat at the supermarket”.

Do you have to give money to people who work illegally?

“As a Minister and man of the State, I have to say that those who work illegally commit a crime. As a human being, I would add that it is unimaginable that a father could find himself in the condition of not being able to feed his children”.

Minister, in the residences for the elderly in Italy there are thousands of coronavirus deaths. Could it have been avoided?

“Probably yes, indeed yes it should have been avoided, but I am not saying this to be controversial, I don’t want to. There are ongoing investigations, and the whole judiciary will decide. But seeing our grandparents die in this way, often fragile people, it hurts.”

How old are your parents?

“My dad is 70, my mum is 65, and they are fine.”

Will you invite them to stay at home on May 4th?

“I will invite them to follow the rules that the government will set.”

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