«Arms shipment will arrive as soon as possible. Ukraine also urgently needs aid for civilians. We are focusing on humanitarian support. Russia wants to bring Ukraine back to the Middle Ages. As to the Samp-T missiles issue, it takes time; there are technical issues to be solved, but we will reach a solution». The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, came out of a G7 meeting by videoconference, where Italy was one of the main protagonists. An hour face-to-face with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the other countries, to take up Kiev’s urgent appeal: «Russian bombing has critically damaged infrastructure. The humanitarian situation is worsening», his colleague Kuleba said. The meeting on the war took place in the middle of another strategic Summit, organised by the Italian Foreign Ministry in Trieste. A mega-forum on the Western Balkans, with ambassadors and representatives of all countries across the Adriatic in dialogue with major Italian financiers, to help our companies invest massively in the region.
Minister Tajani, what did Italy promise Kiev? «We sent tens of tonnes of electric material, transformers and electric generators, because the winter season risks being very hard for the Ukrainian population. Much energy infrastructure is damaged. We are adding another 10 million for the emergency. We have to keep the country’s power grid operational. It is a tragic race to rescue a people. Our Civil Protection structures channelled companies’ donations to that sector and humanitarian goods worth EUR 8 million through the European Mechanism. Since the beginning of the war, we have welcomed 175,000 Ukrainians, with a response characterized by great solidarity».
On the arms front, when will the sixth Decree be ready? There seem to be delays. «It takes time. It is normal. There are technical problems. It is not an issue of willingness. The Decree also means the list of weapons that are sent. We have to deal with technical issues to assemble the defence system with France. The Samp-T anti-missile shield is composed of several parts; some are provided by France, others by Italy. They do not always talk to each other. There are variants relating to technology, to the command and control system. I can mention the example of the Leopard tanks used in the war in the former Yugoslavia: the armoured vehicles were the same, but they did not communicate because they had different telematic systems».
Are we talking about months, weeks? «I do not know. Now the issue is in technicians’ hands».
A delay, however, could change the situation on the ground and benefit Russia. Are you worried about an escalation? «I am worried. The climate is not the best. The Russian statements are very aggressive. I hope it is mere propaganda and that there is no desire to heat up the confrontation. We must do everything so as to avoid the confrontation escalating. Neither NATO nor Europe, which have a duty to help Ukraine, are at war with Russia».
Not even if they send tanks, as the Germans used to say? «The debate on defensive and offensive weapons is a German one, and I leave it to them. Instead, we must also continue to work for peace, or at least a ceasefire. Right now, any realistic room for negotiation seems difficult to find, but we must not give up. I am not optimistic in the short term, but I encouraged Turkey to take all necessary steps to open a dialogue. I insisted with IAEA Director General Grossi for an agreement on Zaporizhzhia, because if there is a clash around the nuclear power plant, the risk will be generalized, not only for Russia and Ukraine. The other fundamental aspect is the supply of wheat and cereals to the poorest countries, and also to other ones. I am also thinking of Egypt. Without wheat, there is a risk of strong social tensions in Africa, with an increase in immigration. The United States, China, the Vatican, the UN and Turkey itself can play a role».
Is it time for Ukraine to give up something, to negotiate? «It is difficult to bring the parties closer. For a country that is invaded by an enemy power, it is really complicated to compromise. But helping Ukraine means continuing to seek paths to peace».
At the Balkans Forum you spoke of the risk of infiltration by other players. Just think of Russia in Serbia. Is there a danger of instability? «It is a general principle. It applies to the Balkans and to Africa. If you leave open spaces, someone else will slip in. China in Africa has occupied huge spaces. The same holds true in the Balkans, along with Russia, which is trying to carve out a strong role for itself. We have an important role to play, first and foremost because some Balkan countries are members of the European Union, while others are candidate countries. We are playing at home. Italy wants to bring and also attract investment. We are linked by history, culture (Italian is studied in many of these States), and a much appreciated military commitment».
In interviews on this newspaper Kosovo’s Prime Minister Kurti called for more Italian soldiers for security. Will we send them? «We already have 1,000 soldiers, appreciated by Kosovars and Serbs. We will evaluate the issue».
Italy was excluded by France and Germany from the Quintet for the stabilisation of Kosovo. Why? «They wanted us out. At the last European Council I formally said that Italy wanted to be part of the meetings. We are part of the Quintet; either we are in or we are not in. There is no fake Quintet and real duet».
Throwing the ball forward, do you really believe that the Balkan countries will join the EU? When? «We are working to speed things up. Albania is close. Montenegro was close, too, but we are witnessing a crisis right now. Belgrade must clarify its position».
What must Vucic grant? «In my opinion he wants more attention from the EU. The Serbian President must make it clear that he is making a pro-European choice, while Europe must make it clear that it is interested in Serbia. We may be very charming, but if we do not court them, then they get engaged with those who devote attention to them, namely Russia».
Is Europe too weak? « Europe has no real foreign policy, as well as no defence policy. We always come after the Americans. Defence forces also make foreign policy. We are late, we have been talking about it since 1954».
Is there a lack of leaders in Europe? «There is too much jealousy, too much leaderships. European leaders are needed, there are too many national leaders. Europe is needed in the world. Even Germany, the strongest country, does not succeed in imposing itself. We lack a leader like Angela Merkel».
You have been reassured by Al-Sisi on the Regeni case. If Egypt does not keep its promises, what are your levers to convince him? «We have to separate the issues: we have to talk to Egypt on energy issues, Mediterranean stability, terrorism. Then there is the Regeni case. President Al-Sisi has assured he will remove all the obstacles that have made relations with Italy difficult. I have to take note of this. Let us see whether he does so. We will continue to insist. We want to know who is responsible for that murder. Our strategy is firmness, dialogue, moral suasion».