Minister Luigi Di Maio, your thoughts on the Recovery Fund?
«The core of the agreement is about the future of our young generations and not the interests of any individual State. This is great news. Europe was at a crossroads and it has chosen to respond. Now it’s up to us to provide answers to the Italian public in the form of a concrete and ambitious plan of reforms».
Wich? Your personal ideas?
«We must grasp this opportunity to launch a huge modernisation effort. The government has all the qualities to achieve this, but, first and foremost, it has credibility. Believe me, this is no minor detail, and the M5S Movement too is showing great maturity. They called us populists before they got to understand us, then we entered the government and provided a decisive contribution to the election of President von der Leyen. Do you remember all the attacks we received? Today, I stand wholeheartedly by that choice».
The attacks came from inside the Movement as well, for the U-turn.
«It was a clear choice of sides, a responsible decision that has rewarded us. The results we have obtained prove that the path we’re treading creates stability and offers opportunities of growth and development».
Who can take the merit for the success in Brussels?
«When a team wins a match it’s thanks to all the players and those behind the scenes. The success is a collective result, represented by Prime Minister Conte, who has showed great determination and resolve together with the entire Italian delegation and diplomatic corps».
The negotiations were tough also because a part of Europe does not trust those who introduced reforms like the “quota 100” pension reform law. Do you still stand by that law?
«If we start reprehending ourselves even before talking about the reforms then we’re getting off on the wrong foot. First of all we need to set a timeline, which is a very important factor. Businesses and the whole production sector is asking for an immediate response, our economy would not survive the long-drawn-out processes of European bureaucracy. Then there’s the question of the stability and growth pact…».
Well, that’s been suspended. Don’t you think we should stop asking and set ourselves to work to relaunch the economy?
«We are already working to that end, but anyone can clearly see that the effects of the terrible recession under way cannot be tackled with the old rules. If we implement reforms by investing in certain sectors while cutting others then it’s all useless. The stability pact needs to be overhaulted or the suspension extended. This is of fundamental importance».
Yet another request. But where to invest exactly?
«This isn’t about requests, but realism, and regarding Italy, until we reduce the tax burden consumers won’t start spending. Furthermore, we need to incentivise all those production sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. We also need to spend more in healthcare, build hospitals where there are none, ensure that the weakest social groups are cared for, create opportunities for the youth segment of the population. We need to protect jobs».
Couldn’t we use the European loans to cut taxes?
«When I speak of tax reforms I’m referring to something the country needs, regardless of the European negotiations. Regarding the Recovery Fund, I think we should be implementing digitisation and sustainable economy projects, to enable Italian businesses to successfully tackle the global challenges they’re faced with. Fully digitising the public administration, cutting waiting times, and creating common assets together with the other Countries: if German or French companies launch energy conversion programmes, the supply chains of those companies – which are located in Italy – must do the same. It would be interesting to coordinate the projects that need to be developed».
Regarding the healthcare reform you mentioned earlier, it would be sufficient to use the ESM, which has no conditions attached, unlike the Recovery Fundy. Why not?
«Prime Minister Conte has said and repeated that, at present, Italy doesn’t need it. We have no reason to doubt his words».
You have led and still represent a political party which, in 2014, went to Athens to boo Europe. That set up tables to collect signatures against the euro. That joined the same political group as Nigel Farage in the European Parliament. Has Europe changed or the 5-Star Movement?
«That was 5 years ago, the 5-Star Movement has grown and learnt from its mistakes. I find this a healthy process, which I myself officially announced at the 2018 elections, when I highlighted our full support of the Euro-Atlantic values and our absolute opposition to any exit from the EU or the euro».
When you left the leadership of the 5-Star Movement the party had decided to make radical changes and hold a conference, but then the reform process mired with the appointment of regents and the organisation of many factions. Hasn’t the time come yet to decide what you are exactly?
«Today we have a political chief tasked with guiding this process and we need to support him. Personally, my opinion as an activist is to strengthen our project, look ourselves in the eyes and make a further step forward».
You have already proposed to scrap the limit of two terms in office for the mayors Appendino and Raggi. Are you thinking of abolishing it for MPs as well?
«This is a question you need to ask Crimi».
What exactly is the role of the Rousseau platform in a changed Movement? You no longer hold ballots there before deciding on policy.
«The platform is a tool for supporting our projects and ideas, a place where we can air and share proposals. In order to make that step forward that I was talking to you about earlier we should be looking at what to innovate inside the Movement, not fight among ourselves and play at who shouts loudest. A voice is stronger when in unison. We need to build bridges, not raise walls».
Zingaretti has asked you to join the centre-left. This is Conte’s project too. Your thoughts?
«I think we’re working well with the Democratic Party and that the task of a political party is to listen to the people at the local level. When the 5-Star Movement chooses to reorganise itself, bringing together everybody’s ideas, then it will have clearer ideas about its own future. Today, we are still involved in widespread discussions and we will be able to find a way forward only by stopping and looking inside ourselves, as a single party. There’s no point in putting the cart before the horse».
Paola Taverna has asked Conte to give you a hand. Recently, Alessandro Di Battista has often praised him. Could the Prime Minister become the next leader of the Movement?
«You need to ask Conte that. Personally, I would be very happy if Conte joined the Movement. He would be yet another great resource for us to count on».