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Antonio Tajani ‘Weapons for the freedom of Europe, but it is difficult for us to send fighters’ (La Stampa)

Antonio Tajani “Armi per la libertà dell’Europa ma è difficile che invieremo i caccia” (La Stampa)
Antonio Tajani "Armi per la libertà dell'Europa ma è difficile che invieremo i caccia" (La Stampa)

Minister Antonio Tajani explains: “The relay in Kiev between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni “has great significance. It shows the unity of the West and NATO in defending Ukraine’s independence.” Foreign Minister Tajani is leaving for New York, where he will attend the UN General Assembly, in a special session organised one year after the start of the war. “A motion of solidarity with Ukraine, aimed at peace, will be discussed” – Tajani anticipates – “and we are still convinced that the best way to achieve peace is to support Ukraine so that it can sit at the negotiating table on an equal footing”.

We will therefore go ahead with sending weapons, increasing the supply: is this what Prime Minister Meloni is going to assure Zelensky?

‘This is not in question. We have already approved the sixth package and the delivery of material is being finalised. In a few weeks, in cooperation with France, we will also send the Samp-T missile system for air defence to Ukraine”.

Could we also send our fighters?

“We have not talked about it yet, but if we do so, we will have to coordinate with our allies, and figure out what kind of aircraft they will send, because it does not make sense to deliver different models to Ukraine. Then there is also the problem of training pilots. In short, it seems practically impossible for Italian fighters to be sent.”’

There is also the problem of ammunition: Ukraine’s needs exceed our supply capacity…

“It is a problem that has been raised by the EU High Representative, Joseph Borrell. Some countries have been asked to bring deliveries forward, but the possibility of joint procurements at the European level is also being evaluated, along the lines of those made for Covid vaccines. For our part, we need to think about the production capacity of the Italian industry: we will do what we can.

A year of war has elapsed and we are here talking about weapons and ammunition, not peace negotiations. Worrying, isn’t it?

“If we want to achieve peace, we must ensure that Ukraine remains independent and defends its territory, otherwise an agreement cannot be reached. At the UN Assembly in New York, however, we will submit and adopt a document, which we hope will be a push towards peace”.

In this perspective, how should we interpret the role that China is trying to play?

“We are waiting to see the 12-point proposal it has announced. I hope that the mission to Moscow by Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be a sign that China really wants to put pressure on Russia for a peace process. If the commitment is concrete, China’s role can be important”.

What about Italy’s role?

“We are in the front line. We also want to be protagonists in Ukraine’s reconstruction. After all, we are among the countries that have most seized funds from the Russian oligarchs. We are talking about over 2 billion, money that can be used to rebuild the country. We are organising an event, to be held in the coming weeks in Rome, to submit a plan and involve as many companies as possible”.

Will it be another promise from Prime Minister Meloni to Zelensky: do we need to reaffirm our closeness and support to Ukrainians?

‘No, it is a fact. We have demonstrated our support concretely over all these months”.

Then Berlusconi starts attacking Zelensky, with pro-Russian propaganda arguments. Does this not risk negatively affecting the perception of Italy abroad?

“I do not think so. I was at the G7 and I spoke with US Secretary of State Blinken. Then I saw my Ukrainian colleague Kuleba and I attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels: there was no polemical hint about our country. On the contrary, there is utmost consideration for our contribution. We should stop with the self-flagellation and tabloid-style domestic chatter”.

There are still those statements by Berlusconi with which I imagine you do not agree. Am I right?

“Look, over and above the political narrative, Berlusconi has never said anything in support of Russia, while in the European Parliament he has voted for documents condemning the Russian aggression. He has always been on Ukraine’s side, but he tries to insist on the need to achieve peace, which is his goal”.

I guess Zelensky did not get it. He said he could send Berlusconi a case of vodka bottles to “get him on our side”…

“Zelensky has publicly reaffirmed his esteem and gratitude towards Italy. This is what counts. I repeat that the one about Putin’s vodka gift was a joke by Berlusconi and that the case never arrived, also because there is an embargo. Maybe Zelensky’s one will arrive and would certainly be appreciated”.

Maximum human sympathy and support for you, who have to serve both as Foreign Minister and coordinator of Forza Italia.

“I do my job. I have always been used to mediating. I was Vice-President of the European Commission and President of the European Parliament, I know what it means to exchange views and negotiate.”

By the way, did you clear up the matter with the President of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber?

“The incident is closed. On Weber’s part there is no acrimony towards Berlusconi or Forza Italia. I told him again that, in my opinion, he was wrong to cancel the EPP study days planned in Naples, but now we will see whether we can organise another event in Italy to make up for the cancelled one”.

Let us close our interview focusing on the Italian journalists who were denied accreditation by the Ukrainian authorities: they cannot move around and do their work. Has the Foreign Ministry taken action?

“We are following the matter: At the moment they are free to move, but they cannot go to the front. This is because they would have crossed some Russian-controlled areas and the Ukrainian authorities are carrying out checks on their activities. At the end of this assessment, we are counting on the situation to be unblocked.”

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