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Lebanon, Mali, Belarus. That is where Italy goes. The floor to Vice Minister Del Re (

“Italy has always played an important role in Lebanon, now we need long-term projects: there will be a reconstruction programme as in the past for the Balkans. Mali tells Europe that we need to look more carefully at the Sahel. In Belarus, however, it is still too early to draw any conclusions”. Conversation of with Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Emanuela Del Re


Lebanon, Mali, Belarus, are hot days for international geopolitics. Italy is committed on each of these fronts, and the beacons that guide the Foreign Ministry commitment have always been cooperation and human rights. This was explained to by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Emanuela Del Re, who was a guest at the Rimini Meeting at the event organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italian Football Association and Sky Sport, “Football and cooperation play in the same team”.

Vice Minister, you were invited to the Rimini Meeting to talk about the values that unite cooperation and sport. What are these values, and what does it mean that cooperation passes through a correct educational model?

My participation in the Meeting was very important because we were able, together with the Development Cooperation and therefore the General Directorate of Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and AICS (Italian Agency for Development Cooperation), to make a very interesting proposal that combines cooperation values with sport values. In a concrete project aiming at propagating the approach based on values of inclusiveness, openness and healthy competition, but also to make it a real form of development for people in difficult contexts, in fragile countries and in crisis situations.

How to do all this in a concrete way?

This union is particularly virtuous, first and foremost because the Italian football world is a global leader and has certainly always been an example of fair play and involvement of young people. Then because footballers like Simone Perrotta and Damiano Tommasi have such a reputation that they can spread these principles to everyone in a direct and incisive way. Alessandro Del Piero and Sara Gama also attended the meeting, a presence that I particularly appreciated as a woman, because all of us women are “footballers of life”. In fact, she also has a great responsibility as a “role model”, as she embodies the most important principles of cooperation, and for this reason she can bring them into the world.

These are hot days from a climatic but also geopolitical point of view. Italy has recently sent a humanitarian mission to help Lebanon, how does our country intend to support the Lebanese population tormented by the explosion as well as the lockdown?

Italy has always played an important role in Lebanon, for decades we have had our civil society organisations operating in the field. This means that we have been close to the Lebanese people, always and in all its historical phases. Today, however, this presence is even more important. Though, we are facing the most tragic moment of a crisis which, to quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was already announced. We certainly did not expect this explosion, but we knew that the situation was already particularly serious, on all fronts: terrible energy crisis, lack of production that makes the country non-independent, problems of sectarianism throughout the country. Thus, we already knew that a continuous relationship with Lebanon was necessary.

Is there room for Italy in Lebanon even in the current situation, and what role can it play?

In the current situation, cooperation is also combined with the need to intervene in the emergency. That means that we absolutely must tackle the frightening crisis in Beirut, without forgetting, however, that if we do not make a project to help the country as a whole, it will not be able to start again. We therefore need to make speeches in the short, medium, and long term. To this end, last week I had some meetings with all the units in the field, to understand what the problems are and to think about what has been done and what can be done. A few days ago, I then held a meeting with all the institutional actors, including the Ministry of Defence, at a coordination table for Lebanon where Confindustria, Anci, Caritas are also present.

So how is it going?

There are two orders of approach. On the one hand it is holistic, to deal with the emergency and help the country, not forgetting the vulnerable groups scattered everywhere. But at the same time, it is necessary to have a multi-stake-holder approach considering all the actors involved and dialogues with them. There is a great need for this at the moment. Also, because, for instance, we will have an important reconstruction phase. After the Balkan war there was the famous Stability Plan, in which there was a very comprehensive reconstruction programme. I believe and hope that we will achieve something similar in Lebanon. With everyone’s help.

Flying to Africa, on Tuesday the capital of Mali woke up to the sound of Kalashnikovs. According to analysts, the coup is likely to be a serious blow to Macron. Could a possible military failure of France represent a threat also for the Italian mission?

We are making an appeal for constitutional order to be restored and for political prisoners to be freed. Our hope is that there will be a new order that is absolutely law-abiding. The Mali episode, however, basically tells us that the time has come to look more closely at the Sahel. I say this to the European Union. The French commitment is well known, but so is the Italian commitment. In the last two years we have opened two embassies, one in Burkina Faso and the other in Niger. We have a small presence in Niger. We are extremely attentive to the area, and it is high time that the European Union also realised the need for more engagement, not just military engagement. We need a broader project that responds to peoples’ demands.

Brussels has announced targeted sanctions for what is happening in Belarus, not recognising the result of the elections that saw Lukashenko emerge victorious. What is the wish of Italy and the Italian Government? Is a resumption of dialogue necessary?

We are, of course, always concerned, in all countries in the world, that human rights are respected. It is one of the fundamental elements of our policy, we bear these values, also within the United Nations Council. Mr Lukashenko has been in power for many years, he has always been followed, and he is at this stage in particular. The peaceful street protest is an indication of an important moment of transition within which we must aim, above all, at a democratic process.

Today on we explain that the poisoning of the activist Navalny, symbol of the opposition to Putin, could be very problematic for the Russian President. The affair, although not attributable to Mr Putin if only for lack of evidence, has been linked by analysts to the Belarusian one. Is Moscow in danger of being even more isolated?

I have seen several episodes of this kind and I am very sorry about this very serious last one. It struck a person who has a political role and there is great pain, first of all as a citizen of the world. However, we do not have any elements, at the moment, thus we cannot make judgments. Certainly we need to clarify this, yes. But right now we can only hope that Mr Navalny will come out of his coma and recover. Then we will see the political consequences. It is still impossible to express ourselves if we do not have concrete elements.

How has the pandemic changed international relations? Is there a need for more cooperation against this invisible enemy of the virus, which makes us all more suspicious?

From my privileged vantage point, which allows me to see the whole picture, I have to say that although the pandemic is obviously a cause for an appalling crisis with very tragic implications, at the same time, apart from a few cases of radicalisation of positions, there has been a great deal of unity within the European Union. I had never heard so much about cooperation and “European team”, with the active and convinced participation of all European countries, even from countries that are usually more reluctant. There is often talk, in the meetings, of fragile countries to help, of a world vision based on partnerships on an equal footing in which Europe is effectively a collaborative country that makes no difference and that tries to build strategies through direct dialogue with fragile countries. I believe that from this point of view, the pandemic has brought at least this positive fruit.

What climate did you find at the Rimini Meeting, do we need more confrontation and dialogue to build a common horizon?

The reason for the success of the Rimini formula, which has been going on since the 1970s, is the will to discuss. I believe that, while on the one hand the discussion is often interpreted at the moment as an expression of an individual who affirms their ideas in a decisive way, on the other hand there is always the hope of a contradictory discussion that allows for dialogue between people who clearly express different thoughts. The Rimini Meeting, attended by politicians from all sides, is actually a place where precisely this dialogue, this expression of different ideas between several people, takes place. And it is a model that reflects the very large part of Italian public opinion: the desire to discuss issues in depth and calmness.