ROME – The latest alarm sign has just arrived from the Foreign Ministry: «After those of Saturday in Bogotà, they now inform me that there are writings at the Italian embassy in Bulgaria against the 41 bis harsh prison regime». Antonio Tajani, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister representing Forza Italia, wants «neither to overdramatise nor underestimate the dangers: there is an attack on the State. If even President Mattarella is indicated as the enemy by these groups, it is clear that it is not one side or the other that is being targeted, but that the threat is to democratic institutions: law enforcement agencies, diplomatic and political offices, in Italy and abroad. But we will not let ourselves be blackmailed: we will not change the 41 bis harsh prison regime, although we support the action of Justice Minister Nordio when he also deals with the health of those under a prison regime».
You therefore agree with Prime Minister Meloni’s letter to the Corriere della Sera on the Cospito case, with its call for unity, but also with the defence of Donzelli and Delmastro and the accusations against the Democratic Party (PD)?
«I agree that we must all tone down the debate. The problems faced by the Italians are others and we must tackle them. However, we have never toned the debate up».
Which party did so? The PD, Fratelli d’Italia (FdI)?
«The government played no role in this affair. There was no government action that led to a “Cospito case”, but a clash between MPs on the 41 bis issue involving two parties. A very emphasised clash, indeed».
Yes, indeed, but who is right?
«On the merits, there is a Jury of Honour that will rule on the case in the Chamber of Deputies: let us trust the institutions and close this affair. The country needs something else. It needs great reforms to start growing again and not lose the opportunity to relaunch itself: the economic situation is better than initially expected and now we must not waste time. This must be the year of reforms, the year in which they are conceived, designed and completed as far as possible».
Which reforms are you talking about?
«Regional autonomy, presidential system, justice, taxation, bureaucracy, the Rome Capital issue. They are essential to push the country forward, obviously together with the work that needs to be done on energy and immigration, which are at the top of our agenda and future commitments».
But can reforms be implemented in a heated and fiery climate? Is not the government too “muscular”?
«We are not “muscular”, we tackle problems head on. We have done so with rave parties, with international crises – I recall that we managed to bring back to Italy one of our fellow citizens arrested in Iran in a very short time – and with the arrest of Matteo Messina Denaro. We do so with our Missions abroad to address the issues of energy supply and the fight against illegal immigration. In this regard, I will be seeing the Libyan Foreign Minister today to deliver the first of five patrol boats. At the same time, we have managed to organise in Rome a very important FAO event on food, The Un Food System Summit, in July, to which we have invited dozens of Heads of State and Government, that will enable us to address crucial issues such as Africa and sustainable agricultural systems, which we believe are decisive for political and economic equilibria».
But will you make reforms “head on” or with the opposition?
«We are absolutely open to debate and collaboration. We did so among ourselves, and we managed to draft a shared text on the issue of differentiated regional autonomy on which we all agree, also thanks to the collaboration of three Ministers from the three parties, namely Casellati, Fitto and Calderoli. We are ready to do so with the opposition on everything. On justice, there is already an important dialogue going on with the parties Iv and Azione. On the presidential system, we are open to various solutions, we are not blinkered and closed-minded. But one thing must be clear: we will not accept preliminary vetoes».
Next week there will be local elections in the Lombardy and Lazio Regions: what impact and relevance will the results have?
«They are important elections not only for the two Regions, but also for the government, because winning the elections – and winning them with a significant majority of votes – would be an important sign to understand whether the government’s action is supported by Italians».
If there is a strengthening of Fdl and a weakening of FI and Lega, do you fear consequences and setbacks in the coalition?
« I do not think the results will be significantly different from those of the national election and I believe that FI will perform well, but a good coalition result must give us strength and make us continue along our path. We are here to do good for Italians and implement our programme, not for focusing just on election results».
In the background there is still an unstable international situation: the war in Ukraine, now the US-China crisis over the balloon. Are you worried?
«I clearly say that I support the US action: it was right, after reflection and evaluation, to shoot down the balloon safely».
But what consequences could this episode have?
«We hope that this will only be a setback in the reopening dialogue between the two superpowers. Because both countries are not only crucial for a diplomatic solution in Ukraine, but also for addressing all the international dossiers that are on the table. At the moment it is difficult to reach a ceasefire, but the UN action to create a free zone around the Zaporizhzhia power plant must be supported to avert any risk of a nuclear catastrophe».