Minister Antonio Tajani, will the government succeed to make amends with France?
«On the migration issue, we posed a political problem. We didn’t want to raise a controversy. On their part, France’s reaction was disproportionate, also stemming from domestic policy issues. We aim for stronger European action because the 7,000 kilometers of Italian coasts represent the southern border of Europe. Manfred Weber, the president of the EPP, agrees with us. »
Tomorrow, at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, will you bring a plan for migrant reception?
«It is up to Europe to come up with a plan, not Italy. We need a common decision on relocation. We will pose the issue of immigration with calm and determination because the problem has been dragging on for years and we absolutely need to solve it. I will ask what agreement says that Italian ports are necessarily the ones where all migrants must be disembarked. I don’t think such an agreement exists. »
What is the government’s proposal?
«We must stop disembarkations and when traffickers’ boats are seized, their engines must be destroyed. We need a European Marshall Plan for Africa and agreements with Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Niger, and the other Countries in the Sahel region. In 2050, Africans will be close to 3 billion. The problem must be solved upstream, tackling climate change, disease, poverty, wars, terrorism. »
The case of the Ocean Viking ship carrying 234 migrants has triggered a diplomatic incident with our principal ally, who apparently didn’t appreciate the statements made by Salvini: “times have changed” and “firmness pays off”. Is Italy now isolated in Europe?
«We’re not isolated at all. Germany and Luxembourg will comply with the agreements, just like us. Greece, Malta, and Cyprus are also supportive and they signed, along with Italy, a joint statement by the Ministers of the Interior because they face the very same problem. »
Yet France accuses you of lacking a sense of solidarity.
«How can you possibly say that a Nation that has received 90,000 migrants since the beginning of the year is inhuman? The French government should not dump their domestic problems on us. Italy has always done its share, and we are now asking Europe to do the same. We are willing to receive migrants, but we need a change of pace on the part of the other member States. They found a solution for Turkey, now they must also find one for Italy. »
Paris claims that the «relationship of trust» has been broken. Are you worried about our relations with France?
«We don’t want to raise a controversy with France: we have not caused them any harm and we have always been correct. However, we must uphold the reasons of Italy in a peaceful debate. We cannot accept the principle that NGOs all agree amongst them to embark migrants. »
NGOs deny being a factor of attraction.
«It’s not the Italian government that says so but a report by the European agency Frontex which says that NGOs arrange to meet with the people smugglers in the middle of the Mediterranean. They are not rescuing shipwrecked people, they embark them and disembark them in our ports, for reasons we are unable to understand. »
Is the tug of war with NGOs politically driven?
«If anything, on their part. On this issue, there is no right, left, or centre, there are only rules to be complied with. We ask for more Europe, we call on the EU Commission to draft a code of conduct for NGOs. »
Do you intend to go back to applying the decrees issued by Salvini, fines, and the confiscation of non-compliant ships?
«We do not want private subjects to determine the migration and asylum policies of member States. »
Was Paris wrong in accusing Italy of violating European rules?
«We have complied with the rules and honoured our commitments while others have not. Thirteen EU member Countries committed to relocate 8,000 out of the 90,000 people disembarked in Italy in 2022 and do you know how many of them have been relocated? Just 0.13%, that is a total of 117 people. »
Will France retaliate on our National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR)?
«I don’t see how France could ever retaliate on that. »
Last Tuesday, our Prime Minister thanked Macron’s government after an 8 hour-long silence during which news of France’s decision to have the Ocean Viking dock there “had not been denied”. What happened in that lapse of time between Palazzo Chigi, the Farnesina, and the Elysée Palace?
«On Monday, Prime Minister Meloni and President Macron had a meeting in Sharm, and the following evening Palazzo Chigi expressed satisfaction in a note. That’s the whole story. I was on an official visit with President Mattarella and, in those same hours, we also solved the case of Alessia Piperno. We have absolutely nothing to justify.»
How do you interpret Mattarella’s words on the need to uphold cohesion in the Country and in the EU?
«The President’s words were sacrosanct. We must pursue a European solution on immigration and intervene in Africa. The same was stated by Pope Francis. »
Rumours have it that Berlusconi would have disembarked all the migrants from the Ocean Viking…
«We’re talking about hearsay on a dinner conversation. By the way, speaking of solidarity, on that same day we disembarked 600 people. »
Does Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson bring us closer to peace?
«I hope that further steps forward will be taken through the intervention of United States, China, and Turkey. I hope that they will all push for a negotiation in the pursuit of an equitable peace. The Russian offensive must cease, and Ukraine’s independence must be safeguarded. »
Does Meloni plan an imminent mission to Kiev?
«We’ll see: it depends on the military situation. The Prime Minister will decide with Zelensky if and when to go to Kiev. »
Could Di Maio be appointed EU special envoy to the Gulf?
«Di Maio called me to tell me that he was on the short list but it is not the Italian government to submit his candidacy. The decision must be taken by the High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrel.