Minister Tajani, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hinted that the war will continue for a long time. Meanwhile, the shadow of a new food crisis looms large over Africa. What happens if the wheat export agreement breaks down?
“It is a scenario we do not want to consider. The lives of millions of people living in poverty are at stake. A crisis would arise in the countries of central and sub-Saharan Africa which, together with the war in Sudan, risks triggering off a very dangerous spiral on the migration front.”
A new peak of departures towards Europe?
‘Yes, the instability due to the lack of cereals and basic foodstuffs could lead to a new wave of migration flows. This is the reason why we have been active for some time”.
“I myself said and reiterated at the UN that the agreement for a Black Sea corridor must remain in place. We also informed President Zelensky that this is one of our main concerns, together with the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. We trust Turkey’s independent mediation”.
By the way: what is at stake in the Turkish presidential elections?
“We respect the Turkish people’s will. For us, Turkey is and remains a fundamental counterpart within NATO for the stability of the Mediterranean”.
Will Italy play its part?
“Food security is at the top of the government’s diplomatic agenda. I have recently gathered the African ambassadors in Rome to discuss it. Our agri-food sector is flourishing and in July we will host the FAO International Conference in Rome”.
Another African country, namely Tunisia, risks collapsing. Is there an Italian plan to avoid this and avert new migration flows?
“We will continue to do everything to support Tunisia economically and we urge our European partners to look at the crisis of this great country from “an African perspective”. President Saied’s reforms cannot be made conditional upon funding; they must go hand in hand. Italy has already provided 10 million euros and additional 100 are on the way”.
As to the 1.9 billion loan of the International Monetary Fund the road is uphill, right?
“We are working night and day to help unlock the necessary financing and avoid financial collapse. But, at the same time, we have to understand the times and the difficulties of the Tunisian reality without lecturing a people who are our friends.”
What else can be done to curb the migration escalation?
“The EU must intervene; there is no other choice. We are in an unprecedented situation with multiple overlapping crisis scenarios, from Afghanistan to Libya, from Tunisia to the violence of Boko Haram in the Horn of Africa”.
Hence what is needed?
“We need a European Marshall Plan against climate change and its destabilising effects in Africa. Italy will play its part with the so-called Mattei Plan”.
Can you explain what it consists of?
“It is a development plan for the continent that includes investment in critical sectors such as the extraction of raw materials and energy cooperation agreements, some of which we have already signed, from Algeria to Ethiopia. Win-win, not predatory agreements, to which we could add joint ventures of our companies to process raw materials locally”.
Reverting to Ukraine, what is your assessment of President Zelensky’s visit? Italy provides political support to Ukraine, but on the military level it cannot go much further.
“We are finalising the last decree of military aid. We will examine Ukraine’s requests and we will take action with the EU as to ammunitions. But we are also in the front line for reconstruction, especially in the most urgent phase, with the building of schools and civil infrastructure”.
Is therefore Italy as much a guarantor of the Ukrainian cause as France and Germany?
“There is no doubt on this; we are equal partners. Today I will be in Holland for the Vanvitelli round table discussion and a business forum attended by dozens of Italian companies. After President Mattarella’s visit, we have decided to invest more in bilateral exports, which last year reached a record amount of 55 billion euros. Italy is making a comeback in Europe and for this reason we reject unfounded accusations and insults”.
Here we come back to the incidents with Paris. Will you mend?
With my counterpart Colonna we will meet at the end of the month in Oslo. We want good relations with everyone, as long as they are not subservient ones. We cannot accept groundless and unjustified insults dictated by domestic policy reasons”.
There are plenty of opportunities to forge an axis with France. For example, the reform of the Stability Pact.
“We will build an axis of common sense. We are convinced that defence and NRRP spending should be separated from the Pact. At the same time, we want to work towards a common banking union and invest in European defence.
Let us talk about China: will Italy leave the Silk Road?
‘We are reflecting on whether to renew the Memorandum”.
What relationship do you want with China?
“China is one of our competitors. We want good relations, but the rules must be the same for everyone. Therefore, we say no to social and environmental dumping, unfair competition, and the stealing of know-how instead of long-term investment”.
In the summer there will be the visit to the United States. Are relations with Joe Biden good?
‘They are excellent, as demonstrated by the US decision to appoint an Ambassador to Rome after a two-year vacancy. President Zelensky’s visit confirms that Italy is a guarantor of the European policy line”.
What happens if Trump wins the Presidential election in a year’s time?
“Our relations will not change. We are and will remain allies of the United States”.
Back to Italy. The reform path has started. Devolution or presidentialism first?
“We are working so that they can go hand in hand”.
What does this mean?
‘Without a sound, stable and authoritative central government in Rome, it is difficult for devolution to work. This is the reason why we will proceed with both reforms always involving Parliament and listening to the opposition parties and the Regions”.
The government seems divided on the issue of appointments.
“Not at all. We have already shown in recent days that it is just talk”.
Now it is time for appointing RAI’s top management. Will it be spoil system?
“No, it will not. We hope that quality choices will be made in respect of the company’s autonomy and independence. As long as RAI is respectful of all Italian citizens, which has not always been the case”.
The anchorman, Fabio Fazio, leaves RAI. Are you sorry about it?
“These are the market rules…”