Minister Tajani, as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, you were in Israel and Palestine for two days and now you are travelling to Egypt. What stock can you take of your mission so far?
«The mission to Israel and Palestine, where I saw the two Presidents, the two Prime Ministers and the two Foreign Ministers, has been positive. But it is not enough to be happy with the meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah. To the Palestinian President I brought greetings from his friend, the Israeli President Herzog. Abu Mazen told me to greet Berlusconi, and so did Netanyahu. But the fruits of these international missions, and of those of the Prime Minister, will be seen in days, in weeks. We have started to sow seeds for new foreign policy and economic policy initiatives to grow».
In the meantime, however, there are really worrying emergencies: for Europe the war in Ukraine, for Italy – first and foremost – massive immigration…
«I will answer your question by disclosing something about my meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: after the first pleasantries and greetings (I even gave him the new Giro d’Italia pink jersey as a present), when he asked me how things were going, I answered him sincerely: Italy is in the midst of an immigration crisis that is getting out of control. We discussed this for long minutes, he looked on the big map on the wall of the meeting room to see where the flows are coming from. He explained to me that the great route of irregular migrants entering Israel passed through the Negev desert, on the border between Israel and Egypt. But they built a barrier there and with the help of the Egyptian authorities the irregular entries into Israel have ended. But then he also said: “You are surrounded by the sea, it is much more difficult for you”».
After setting out the problem, did the Israeli Prime Minister give his opinion?
«It is very simple. He made – let’s say – a geopolitical assessment: if 4 or 5 European countries do not take the initiative and take joint action, you will not solve this crisis, and the whole of Europe could be threatened».
Both you and Defence Minister Crosetto have denounced that mercenaries from the Wagner Group may be behind the arrivals of many migrants: Wagner is in Africa, in Libya, in many sub-Saharan African countries. But is it really the Group pushing migrants?
«First ad foremost, there are the reports that are there for all to see: in a country without the control of a central authority like Libya, Wagner’s mercenaries – after supporting one side in the 2019 civil war – have remained in many areas. We have indications that say they are very active and in contact with trafficking gangs and militia interested in migrant smuggling. The Wagner Group plays a direct role in Libya’s destabilisation, and is not afraid of anyone: in Ukraine it is fighting by rivalling the regular Ministry of Defence; it is at odds with Putin’s military chiefs and this, too, is there for all to see».
But is it realistic to believe that the Wagner Group is the problem driving migrant arrivals in Italy?
«It is a decisive factor in Libya, but I am well aware that the structural causes are a geopolitical crisis of proportions not seen in years. Let me give you a list: in Tunisia an unprecedented economic crisis is putting institutions that have already been in crisis for years in a difficult situation, with a President who is described by many as an autocrat but who is the only President. Tunisia is literally populated by sub-Saharan migrants who have almost invaded the country for weeks and are preparing to move to Europe. Then there is Turkey…»
All things considered, however, Italy and Europe have good relations with Turkey, and there is a commitment to stop departures…
«Yes, but Turkey and Syria have had an earthquake that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and devastated hundreds of thousands of homes. An earthquake that will push thousands of people to leave. There are the ingredients for an economic crisis that will inevitably produce new migration flows».
The other country from which migrants come is Libya…
«In Libya the political crisis has been going on for years. Paradoxically, at this stage, the largest departures have been from Tunisia. In Libya the different authorities to which we talk have an interest in stabilising their role and stopping irregular departures, provided they can manage to do so in a country populated by hundreds of militias and criminal groups».
One more question about Netanyahu: on the eve of his visit to Italy, the Prime Minister had said he expected the Italian government to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. What is your position?
«The position of the Italian government is the one that Prime Minister Meloni and myself have set out. We want to be Israel’s best friend in Europe, but with Europe we want to work for peace, for an agreement with the Palestinians based on the “two peoples, two States” formula. In this formula Italy will also consider the issue of Israel’s capital. Netanyahu is a friend, he has understood perfectly».