While Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani answers questions from the daily La Stampa, he is often interrupted. News arrives from Khartoum all the time. The evacuation of the Italians trapped in the burning Sudan is about to begin and the situation and the operations are being followed with legitimate concern. Besides being Foreign Minister, however, Tajani is also Deputy Prime Minister and knows that the anniversary of Italy’s Liberation is a key day.
We are on the eve of 25 April, the Liberation Day. where will you be spending it?
“I will be at the Fosse Ardeatine”.
“I represent the government and it is right to pay tribute to so many heroes who were massacred and martyred by the Nazi-Fascist fury. Among those victims, I wish to remember Giuseppe Cordero di Montezemolo, Colonel and partigiano, protagonist with many others of the Resistance movement and of the fight for freedom.’”
Silvio Berlusconi’s speech on 25 April 2009 in Onna was a turning point in this debate. Would not a similar speech by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also be needed?
“Berlusconi made that speech and closed the chapter for everyone. He spoke as a statesman and as the leader of the centre-right. Giorgia Meloni, who was Berlusconi’s Minister in 2009, has been clear on this point”
Gianfranco Fini, however, says that Fratelli d’Italia needs more clarity on anti-Fascism. Do you agree on these words?
“Asking Giorgia Meloni for blood tests every day is wrong. I see much desire to manipulate and instrumentalise. The heroes of freedom belong to all Italians”.
What do you think of the nonchalance with which some politicians, starting with Ignazio La Russa, speak about these issues?
“I deal with foreign policy…”
Let us talk about your predecessor: Luigi Di Maio has been chosen as the EU envoy to the Middle East. What do you think about this?
“It is a choice of the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell. It is not for us to comment on it. What is certain is that he is not the candidate of the Italian government”.
There are those who say it is a good sign for Italy and those, like your allies in the League, who speak of an affront and insult to our country. Who is right?
“I repeat it once again. I do not want to be judgemental. It is clear that we would have chosen another person. He had presented himself as a candidate individually. The EU envoy reports to the High Representative, and therefore to Borrell”.
Did you call Borrell to protest?
“No, I did not.”
Giuseppe Conte signed the referendum against the war, what do you think about it?
“Some seriousness would be needed. We all want peace, but it must be a just peace and not the surrender of Ukraine.”
The USA is annoyed with Italy over the case of the Russian spy, Artem Uss, who escaped from house arrest. Has Giorgia Meloni’s visit to Washington been called into question?
“But for goodness sake. This affair in no way affects our relations with the United States’”
Has Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked you for explanations on this affair?
“We have not spoken about it.”
With specific reference to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNNR) do you follow Prime Minister Meloni’s or Defence Minister Guido Crosetto’s policy line? Should all the money be spent?
“I follow Forza Italia‘s policy line: all the funds should be spent. But Europe must be flexible, since the war and the pandemic have upset the scenario’”.
What do you think of the statements made by Defence Minister Crosetto: “we only take the money we will use?”
“The government’s policy line is very clear: the money must be spent. There is no debate. Then it is obvious that everyone can have their own individual opinions.’”
Some on the centre-right complain about a particular rigidity on the part of the European Commission towards the Italian government, and there are even those who speak of doggedness on the issue of beach concessions. Do you agree?
“I do not think so. I believe this is normal dialectics and exchange of views”.
For many weeks you have been calling for releasing the Monetary Fund’s financing to Tunisia. At what point is this negotiation?
“Tomorrow (today, ed.) I will see the EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg and I hope that the Commission will make a proposal that unblocks this situation”.
In the meantime, the authoritarian drift in Tunis does not seem to stop. Last week other political opponents of President Kaïs Saïed were arrested. Does this democratic involution worry you?
“The President was elected, as were the members of Parliament. In any case, I have proposed that funding be granted gradually, in parallel with the adoption of the necessary reforms. Hence a progression of funding as the reforms advance.”
You are the coordinator of Forza Italia. Is Berlusconi still firmly in charge, despite being hospitalised for three weeks now?
“Of course. He is studying even at the hospital. Our policy line always comes from him.”
Is it likely to see him on stage at the Forza Italia Convention on 5-6 May?
“I hope that in some way Berlusconi will be with us. Then the doctors will decide in what form. He is very active. He is already thinking about the European elections”.
By the way: at the European elections will you make an alliance with the Conservatives led by Giorgia Meloni to shift the axis of the European Commission to the right?
“This is an option we are carefully considering. But we shall see the numbers.”
Do you already have an agreement with Giorgia Meloni on this?
“We believe that a form of bipolarism should be achieved in Europe as well”.
Is there a risk that Forza Italia will end up being crushed by Fratelli d’Italia in this operation?
“They have been saying for 30 years that someone else will make us disappear. While others often disappear, as happened with the so-called Terzo Polo. Being loyal allies does not mean belonging to anyone, either to Fratelli d’Italia or to the League”.