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“Coronavirus, Di Maio: China is a partner, but we share the values of NATO” (Corriere della Sera)

Minister Di Maio, the United States claims that China is responsible for Covid-19, which has escaped a laboratory. Beijing rejects the charges. Who is right?

«I do not want to discuss it, we take Washington’s concerns seriously, as well as the positions taken by US intelligence and their experts. I think the wisest thing to do in these circumstances is to rely on science. Only science can provide answers. This debate on the origin of the virus should not be about finding a culprit, but how, in the future, we can be ready to face different threats, such as the current pandemic».

Other countries, however, suspect a lack of transparency in Beijing about the spread of the virus, for example, France, Great Britain, Germany.

«The issue of transparency is fundamental, especially in international relations. When the health crisis began, I assured all my foreign interlocutors that Italy would act with maximum transparency. And we are doing so. We are asking all our partners for the same transparency»».

Some US states like Missouri have sued China. Lombardy region is also considering taking action.

«I’ve seen other States, like New York, thanking China for its help. But that is not the point, it is not possible to disperse everything every time there is a clash between East and West. I believe that those who have the duty to represent the institutions must always keep in mind a truly clear concept: the national interest. That means having rooted values such as Euro-Atlantic ones. It is no coincidence that Italy is and remains firmly in NATO and the EU, but not because it is a mere habit for us, but because it represents a strategic interest. And then there are partners, with whom we dialogue, frankly. Among these there is also China. I would like to remind you that China has close commercial relations also with France and Germany in various sectors».

To many observers, the government seems to favour an axis with Beijing and Moscow. Some accuse you of placing much more emphasis on Chinese or Russian aid than on American aid.

«Let me tell you; the United States is our main ally. We share a great deal with the United States, both in terms of trade and values. The same order won by Fincantieri in recent days is a testimony to the robust relations with Washington, of which we are proud. President Conte has an excellent relationship with Donald Trump; I maintain the same cordial relationship with my counterpart Mike Pompeo. These are the facts. The centre of gravity is not shifting. Foreign policy has nothing to do with aid in a health emergency where we have seen thousands and thousands of our citizens die. Italy is a strong, autonomous country that thinks for itself. Italy thanks a country for the help received, but it will not be conditioned. Frankly, I find it weird to even talk about it. In no other EU country has this debate arisen. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been in China many times, and no one has accused her of being pro-Chinese ».

But you are the Minister who signed the Silk Road… »

«The same old story. Do you remember when Italy took over the presidency of the G7? I will tell you the answer: in 2017. We were the opposition at that time. Even then, despite its role of country president of the G7, Italy participated in the first edition of Belt and Road forum. The Silk Road can offer new business opportunities to the “Made in Italy”. Why in 2017 there was not the same media debate as today? Let me remind you that the main objective is the national interest. We are with NATO, alongside the US and our allies; we also maintain trade relations with other partners, including the Russian Federation. I can’t see any problem».

If international tensions increase, what will be Italy’s strategy?

«We do hope they won’t increase. In a situation like this, the world should be united, not divided».

Political tensions are also in Rome. The Prime Minister was attacked by Renzi and criticised even by the PD party for the way he managed phase 2. Is the government holding up?

«We’ve been wondering for decades about the government’s stability. It is incredible that in Italy, during a pandemic, with doctors, nurses and social health workers working 24 hours a day, there is a discussion about the possibility of changing the government. We should all be committed to support those who are fighting the virus on the front line. We do not need polemics right now. We must restart the country and rebuild the economy, with the prudence that science suggests».

Could M5S movement join a government of national unity? Would you vote on Rousseau?

«There is the government and it must be supported. Period. Let us stay away from ‘palace intrigue’. We’re not interested in them».

Among the M5S base there is discontent over the words of Public Prosecutor Di Matteo, whom you have always considered a model, about Minister Bonafede.

«We entered Parliament with the clear intention of stopping the crime and eradicating the mafias. Minister Bonafede has always shown to be resolute. In my opinion there wasn’t the reaction you describing… on the contrary, Alfonso has always been supported by everyone and by the Government…».

The German Constitutional Court expressed a reservation on Quantitative easing. What do you think?

«The issue is much broader and is all about one question: does Europe want to safeguard its future; does it believe in its project? Our future lies in this answer. The EU cannot think of acting as the EU only to dictate rules on the internal market. It is vital to understand that this is a common challenge».

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