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Di Maio: “Stop arguing about the ESM. Now all with President Conte” (Avvenire magazine)

Luigi Di Maio’s mind is still on April 23rd, on the crucial negotiation, on the test of truth that awaits Europe. We challenge the Foreign Minister with a direct question, almost provocative. Do you trust Giuseppe Conte? The answer is immediate. “I trust Giuseppe Conte unreservedly. The President of the Council of Ministers knows how to keep the bar straight in the national interest.” For a few moments, Di Maio remains silent, as if he were thinking of the challenge that awaits Italy and the uncertainties that are threateningly pressing. “We have only one real goal. An Ambitious and decisive one. The Recovery fund: 1,500 billion to get the engines back on. Everything else is a limiting debate”. Is it limiting? Di Maio nods.
“Yes, the debate about individual bushes is limiting. The ESM is worth 37 billion for Italy; the anti-unemployment fund Sure is worth 100 billion in total; the Bei (Bank of European investment) 200 line. The real challenge is then to play the Recovery fund game to the end, to walk the main road without even considering the alternatives”. It is early in the morning, and Di Maio has already read the newspapers. The topical issue of restarting Italy is again dominating the scene and talking about it means to deal with different ideas, different projects, different dates. Citizens are increasingly disoriented. “It was painful to turn off the engines of Italy, close the companies, impose incredible sacrifices. Life, however, comes first”. Those last seven words explain the government’s strategy. Di Maio insists: “We cannot run the risk of opening too soon. A second wave of the epidemic would be the coup de grace and politics must avoid it”. It is comprehensive interview on how to “recover” Italy; on rebirth after the trauma; on “our dead without a funeral”; on Sundays Masses that cannot be attended; on choices to make and on a desperate need for unity. “We are at war, and we come out of it only by teaming up, collaborating, putting aside the controversies that have marked our political and social life for too many years”».

Minister, think of the European game: I see no unity. Not even in the 5 Star Movement.
Let me appeal to politics: let us all stand with President Conte. We all support Conte. I have always thought that the debate is always enriching, and I do not want to give the impression to try to censor it, but today it is vital to suspend the polemics. Let’s do it at least until Thursday. Let’s work to give the head of government maximum strength at the final table.

Do you believe in the feasibility of the Recovery Fund?
No country has a granitic position. The Netherlands and Germany are also questioning themselves; they are doing their examination of conscience. The devastating effects of the crisis have distorted the picture and softened those rigidities that have brought us to a profoundly critical condition. Europe has one last chance to show solidarity. Without it, there is no reason to exist.

Some imagine that to restart the Country Mr Mario Draghi should be at Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of the President of the Council of Ministers.
It is a bitter debate, inappropriate, I would say. Mario Draghi is a man of a certain stature but using him to try to weaken President Conte is unfair. The government, the whole government, works with one horizon: the end of the legislature. To face such a devastating emergency, we must implement a recovery plan that will take years, not months. Games of strategy in the political arena and possible transformations are not tolerable. Today we need unity; we need a pact for Italy, we need a single front to play a single game. And above all, we need responsibility.

Do you think a signal can come from a second mandate to the Head of State?
Sergio Mattarella is a luminous symbol of the unity of the Country. I would never dare to say, “it’s his turn again”, but I can tell how decisive he is at this stage. In international relations, in European negotiations, he has unparalleled authority. Then, of course, it will be up to him to decide.

The unity objective also seems to be put at risk by the clash between governors.
I do not blame those governors who decided to go their way. But now the central state, especially in Phase 2, must give a strong response and take responsibility. We will do this by listening to the regions and considering the opinion of the scientists. Their indications have been decisive from day one because the priority is to defend life, and they are a point of reference.

Governor De Luca declared Saviano, the funeral town, “red zone”…  
I do understand the pain of a community for the death of the mayor. However, as Minister, I must reiterate that rules must be respected. But at the same time, I must also avoid the spectacle of sanctions on TV. We need sobriety, and we need it from everyone. I thank the military and police forces for what they are doing. They are fundamental, but I do not want to think that some municipalities use sanctions to make money, especially at a time when citizens are facing this terrible economic crisis. Italy has been in lockdown and citizens accepted sacrifices imposed by the emergency and decided by politics. Now it is up to us to demonstrate our ability so that nobody is left behind.

Yet resources seem scarce, and time is too long.
Bureaucracy is an evil to be eradicated, an enemy to be wiped out. Now is the time to do so. The restart will be more complicated than the closure We have dismantled Italy, and now we must reassemble it and correct the mistakes. We must invest, we must start the works. Place your bets on the construction sites. In a time of crisis like this, even the Procurement Code must be suspended: no thousands of paperwork, no thousands of certificates, no thousands of regulations. As soon as it is possible, just open and start working.

You know that our companies and brands run the risk of becoming ‘preys’ for foreign groups.
There is a general fear of predatory attitudes, not only by China. But we have raised awareness and studied the counter movements to prevent Italy from turning into an outlet in some other country. We have created a shield; we have written clear rules: to buy you need the government’s green light.

China is also in the dock for the story of the virus that allegedly “escaped” to Wuhan’s laboratories.
We have always been transparent and will always demand transparency. However, the emergency can be overcome with a united world, not a divided one; even the vaccine is found thank to a great international alliance. Recently I have spoken to Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations; no one can win this battle alone. Times may be reduced if we go ahead together.

There is an army of immigrants without rights, of “invisible” men and women working in the fields and our homes. Don’t you think that regularising them could protect public health and guarantee social stability?
The real issue is exploitation, and the ‘caporalato’, the gangmaster system, is a real scourge. And I would not want us to talk about immigrants in the camps because there is now someone missing who has little to pay. Denied rights, all denied rights, are another topical issue. In Italy, which we will soon try to get back on track, it will not be forgotten.