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There is no hidden hand behind the attacks. But Russia dreams of shattering Europe’s unity.

From the car that is taking him to Tarquinia for a political rally, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani talks to the daily Il Giornale about current political events.

From the car that is taking him to Tarquinia for a political rally, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani talks to the daily Il Giornale about current political events. He munches a little something as he travels and does not hide his joy at Juventus‘s victory in the Coppa Italia. He, too, witnessed live at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome the show that cost coach Massimiliano Allegri his dismissal. He laughs by saying: “He is a friend and he has certainly shown he knows how to get results. He is a bit undisciplined. His Leghorn origin and spirit have come out.”

But the climate, as European elections are approaching, is gloomy in all European countries. Minister Tajani is preparing for the challenge through his busy days. In the morning he attended Confindustria’s B7 in Rome and then he met at the Foreign Ministry with the Steering Board of the Lgbtq+ Committee. Political rallies in Tarquinia and Orbetello and back to Rome in the evening. Today he is in Piedmont (Alba, Verbania and Rivoli) and in Milan in the evening. Then back to Rome for his son Filippo’s 31st birthday.

Minister Tajani, we have witnessed the attack on Prime Minister Fico in Slovakia, the assault on the synagogue in Rouen, and injured candidates in Germany. Has Europe gone mad or is there a hidden hand to destabilise it?  ?

«I do not see a hidden hand. The events of an election campaign with heated tones cannot be linked even if some rejoice, especially Russia. It hopes that European unity will unravel. There are cyber attacks all the time. It is a psychological war in which we have to prove ourselves stronger, also because of our identity. Some dream of an unstable Europe».

The invasion of Ukraine, the Gaza powder keg. What is lacking in international diplomacy to achieve peace?

«What is missing is the parties’ will  to cease fire. Hamas does not give in on hostages. Israel wants to complete the destruction of Hamas. Hence hostages and the whole civilian population suffer».

The Russia factor. It seemed a country destined to implode after months of war but Putin seems untouchable, in full power. What event could overturn the situation?

«Consensus for Putin has always been there, even if cracked by the attack on the Kremlin and the failed march on Moscow. There is dissent in the cities, but Russia’s gut instincts have never wavered before autocrats, ever since the time of the tsar».

After the elections in June, shall the new European Union think mainly as a military entity considering the war on its borders?

«Also, but not only so. We need to ensure our citizens’ security. What is happening in the Red Sea endangers our exports and maritime transport. A common European defence to strengthen our presence within NATO becomes essential. We cannot always wait for the Americans».

Forza Italia supports the reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen as President. Of the European Commission. What do you say to those who believe she has become a divisive candidate?

«The EPP’s Congress voted her as a possible President. It is obviously a proposal because the EU Council and the future European Parliament shall decide. Von der Leyen cannot be considered divisive just because she represents a party».

What will Italy gain from the upcoming elections in terms of representation and key posts?

«Italians would better vote Forza Italia since it is the EPP that holds all the cards in Europe. It is a useful vote to count more in Europe. Italy shall expect of having at least the Vice-President, if this post is reintroduced, and a portfolio of weight such as Industry and Internal Market, Competition or the Environment».

You are the top candidate of your party. Are you not tempted at all to go back to European institutions in Brussels? Your name is also circulating within Chancelleries as a possible President of the Commission.

«Someone has mentioned my name, but I prefer Italy. I am in the government as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. I have the burden and honour of leading Forza Italia. It would be unfair to leave everything to be President of the European Commission».

Let us talk about the election campaign. Italians will not be able to watch Meloni and Schlein facing off in a TV debate. Are we a country still intoxicated by the anti-Berlusconi par condicio?

«Par condicio has nothing to do with it. A TV showdown between the strongest parties only makes sense with a first-past-the-post system. Furthermore, what criterion would count? The party? The European family? It is better to organise a debate all together as is done in the United States, otherwise everyone makes their own interviews».

Your clash with Salvini’s League on Superbonus and sugar tax actually seemed to be a disguised electoral challenge with your ally. There is a lot of fair play, but the duel with the League seems to be one of the key issues ahead of European elections.

«It has nothing to do with the League. We are loyal and consistent in supporting the government without hesitation. But we do not give up our identity. The sugar tax had to be postponed. Taxes are not raised with us in government. Say what they want, but without Forza Italia we would now have the sugar tax in place».

Here comes the justice reform. Do you not fear that its overlapping with the laws on Premiership and decentralized autonomy may draw against the government a transversal front that is just waiting for referendums to delegitimise the government?

«Reforms are implemented to make the State system more effective. We need to move forward on the issues of justice, decentralised autonomy and Premiership since voters asked us to do so by voting for our programme».

You took over from Berlusconi as leader of Forza Italia. What was the last commitment that he asked of you?

«His last message, the one he wrote in May 2023 and that was made public some time later, is his legacy. He explained what Forza Italia was and that we needed to look to the future. This is what matters to us».

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