ROME He sees no problems with Europe over the NRRP: “A lot of countries are reviewing their plans, what is happening in Italy is completely normal”. Also, the back-and-forth with the EU Commission is “the result of a misunderstanding, nothing more”. Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani puts an end to the controversy that had brought the Italian government and European leaders to loggerheads. However, in view of the 2024 European elections, he warns: “I hope that the Commission, which is an institution that represents everyone, does not take sides and remains independent of individual governments. This has not always been the case”. With regard to the hypothesis of an upcoming alliance between the EPP, Liberals and Conservatives that could lead Europe in the future, he asserts that Forza Italia has a role as a “centrist driving force, in terms of ideals and values, not only in numbers”.
There is talk about a future Europe but the Government is now dealing with the current one: do you feel you are in the crosshairs on the NRRP?
“An already closed episode has been exacerbated by polemics. There was a statement by a spokesperson, later also denied, about the role of the Court of Auditors that was also wrong in substance. There is no attack on our part against the Court. There is nothing strange in the fact that a rule passed by the previous government on non-concurrent but subsequent audits of expenditures is being extended”.
The opposition hardly agrees.
“The opposition is doing what the opposition does, but even distinguished jurists like Cesare Mirabelli, President Emeritus of the Constitutional Court, argue that what we are doing is completely legitimate. We are interested in seriously working on the NRRP and using all the funds at our disposal”.
However, you are behind schedule, that is a fact.
“Many countries are still adjusting their spending plans, not just Italy. The plan was launched during the Coronavirus crisis, then another crisis came with the war, then the energy crisis, everyone needs flexibility, not only the government, but all parties who will work on the NRRP, including left-wing local governments that will manage funds. It is a job that involves all of us”.
There are those in the government who fear that, in the run-up to the European elections, a centre-right executive could be subject to hostile operations by the EU leadership. Do you?
“I expect to see institutions that are independent of individual governments, above the parties. There will be political forces pushing in one direction or the other, but I hope and count on the Commission to keep out of it, even if it hasn’t always been the case in the past…”
Yet Berlusconi himself declares that the goal is to change the balance in Europe with an alliance between the EPP, Conservatives and Liberals. Isn’t it a risk to already take such clear-cut positions?
“It is a fact that the centre-right party is growing overall: the results in Finland, Greece, Spain prove it. We’ll have to wait for the election, of course. However, I remember that in 2017, I myself was elected president of the European Parliament with a centre-right majority, and certainly the pro-European drive has not diminished in any way. Even for the current Commission, we voted Ursula von der Leyen to prevent the election of Timmermans, a member of the PES, a party that had not won the elections”.
And you don’t appreciate him much…
“His policy on climate change is ideological and does not go in the right direction. Of course we believe that the issue should be addressed, but fundamental aspects should be taken into account: the central role of man, of the worker, respect for the environment, but also for social justice and pragmatism. The new regulations regarding electric cars, packaging, ‘red light’ policy are very hard blows for Italy, the second largest manufacturing country in Europe. It is right to defend the environment, but also jobs and the welfare of citizens”.
Will you address this topic at the EPP summit you organised this week in Rome, after the one in Naples was cancelled?
“This and many other issues will be discussed, with particular attention to Christian values – for there will also be meetings in the Vatican – as the roots of a political force must always be clear. The EPP, too, pays attention to the centrality of man in the labour market, and we believe we can serve as a point of reference for these values in Italy as well as, as protagonists, in Europe. Without this having to scare anyone”.
Speaking of scares: inside FI there is unrest over possible new appointments and the chain of command. What’s going on?
“As in all parties, every now and then appointments and tasks are calmly renewed. This is always decided by our leader, Silvio Berlusconi, who will not remove anyone and will not change our line on government. The rest is of interest only to those directly involved. Citizens don’t care about the name of a regional coordinator or a sector head, they care about facts: the 0.6 percent increase in GDP in the first quarter, the increase in domestic demand, the half-point drop in inflation in one month, the growth in employment and the drop in the unemployment rate, the stock market up 13 percent, the cut in the tax wedge that we intend to turn stable. These are the things that matter, not the appointments of Tom or Dick. We are committed to such things.”.