Minister Tajani: Putin says he wants to open a negotiation. Do you think he can be trusted?
«The facts say he can’t».
What are you referring to?
«If he were truly and sincerely willing, I don’t think there would have been the bombing on Christmas Eve. Putin’s words are not supported by facts».
What signal would you expect from Putin to prove he is really open to dialogue?
«A signal could come from how the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is managed. We haven’t seen any such sign up to now».
Will Italy continue to send weapons to Ukraine?
«The Parliament so decided a few days ago and the Government has a very clear stand on this».
Christmas turned out to be very tense also on the border between Kosovo and Serbia: threats, provocations, also a shooting. Are we at the outset of a new ethnic war?
«Let’s hope not. I launch an appeal to loosen tensions».
You travelled to Kosovo and Serbia a month ago, what role can Italy play?
«Italy is already playing an important role: the presence of our troops is a foreign policy instrument, and it is no coincidence that the NATO’s KFOR mission is led by an Italian general. Our aim is to go back to playing a key role in the region, as other States are already attempting to do. This is the sense of the conference on the Balkans scheduled to take place in a month’s time in Trieste, to be followed by an event in Rome with all the foreign ministers from that region. »
Things are also heating up in Libya these days; does the Government have a plan?
«For us it is a strategic area for many reasons. I invited to Rome UN Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily, with whom we share the hope that they will soon hold elections there. »
Are you or the Prime Minister planning a trip there?
«We’ll get there sooner or later but first we need a clear plan leading to elections. Libya’s stability is essential also for the migration issue. »
In Libya, human rights are trampled, putting the lives of migrants at risk; will Italy keep an eye out for this?
«It is essential that Libya have a stable government also to have some control over these situations. »
The violation of the most essential human rights also occurs in Iran.
«I am waiting for the installation of the new ambassador so that I can summon him to explain Italy’s firm condemnation of the ongoing clampdown. If we look even further to Afghanistan, we see an upsurge in fundamentalism that is worrying us. »
Is it the right year to reform the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact?
«This is an essential reform. The goal is that the Pact not only concern stability but also growth. »
Another important reform is superseding the unanimity vote in the European Council’s decision-making. You have always been in favour while the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, an ally of Ms. Meloni, reaffirmed being against it in an interview to La Stampa. What is the Italian Government’s stand on this?
«We haven’t discussed it yet. To achieve this, we must first proceed to reform the treaties, which envisages a long process. »
Do you represent the Government’s Europeanist soul?
«I would prefer avoiding these labels. It is evident that, seeing our background, Raffaele Fitto and I have a fluid dialogue with Brussels. But, in general, the Government is proving to be very united. »
Was withdrawing the law that abolished fining those who refuse electronic payments the right decision to take?
«Yes. Besides going into the merit of things, we must prove to be flexible. If we rightfully ask for flexibility from the Commission, for example on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), we must then prove to be cooperative and open to dialogue on Brussel’s requests. »
The Lower Chamber’s approval of the budget bill was marked by mistakes, delays, and objections. Is this a bad image to convey for a majority coalition that is so united on paper?
«I understand the effect that might be provoked when reading about amendments presented, cancelled, or vanished but this is what happens every year. This year there is a difference: the Government took office with the parliamentary budget session already open and having to allocate almost all the resources to combat the energy price hikes. What was important was keeping a balanced budget and avoiding a provisional budget and this is what we did. »
Seeing that there was little time left, wouldn’t it have been better to leave the task up to Mario Draghi? The former prime minister said he would have wanted to complete the job but Forza Italia did not vote in favour in the confidence motion.
«The question should be put to the Cinque Stelle-Five Star Movement. We were ready to move forward excluding the M5S from the cabinet, but the PD decided against it. »
Does Forza Italia harbour any regrets?
«No. We scored a success by untaxing youth work, extending the ‘super bonus’ and raising minimum pensions. »
You asked for a thousand euros and you obtained 600.
«The resources were limited. But this is the beginning of a five-year-long process. »
Is Forza Italia still split?
«It never was. In our party there are no movements, no personalisms, but only Silvio Berlusconi’s leadership. »
Once the hurdle of the budget bill is overcome, what will the Government start working on?
«Right now the priority is a big reform of red tape, also to honour the memory of a key player in all these battles: Franco Frattini. »
Is the reform of the Public Procurement Code headed in the right direction?
«Yes, it marks the beginning of a process. We must now remove the largest possible number of applications for permits and authorizations. It is a proven fact that too many rules favour corruption and do not reduce it. »
Do the expiry dates set out in the PNRR worry you?
«No, Minister Fitto is doing a wonderful job and the Commission is aware of the fact that Next Generation EU was created in circumstances that were different from the current ones. »
In the past few days Giorgia Meloni mentioned a possible increase in military spending, can you confirm that?
«There is a target for all NATO Countries to progressively raise military spending to 2% of their GDP. Italy intends to honour this commitment. »
You were President of the European Parliament: did you ever realize that the weight of certain lobbies was a strong as it has now emerged with the ‘Qatargate’?
«The dimension of this scandal has surprised me: I never thought it could go so far. Having said this, I want to defend the Institution. The fact that there was a traitor at the Last Supper does not make all the other apostles guilty. »