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Tajani: “Credit goes to the Embassy, rather than those who raised the tone” (Libero)

Tajani «Merito dell’ambasciata, non di chi ha alzato i toni»
Tajani «Merito dell'ambasciata, non di chi ha alzato i toni»

When Antonio Tajani picked up the phone, the news of the assassination attempt on Robert Fico had just spread around the world, and the Slovak Prime Minister was undergoing surgery. “The fact that the head of government of an EU country has been attacked and injured so seriously on European soil is very worrying. It is important to understand whether it is a terrorist attack. The fact that it happened in such a complex international climate is enough to raise the level of alarm,” commented the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and secretary of Forza Italia.

Today, the Hungarian Kúria (Hungarian Supreme Court) has also granted house arrest to Italian national Ilaria Salis, who will therefore be allowed out of prison. The left says they deserve credit for it, because “raising the tone has worked well.”

“While some progress has been made, with the granting of house arrest, it is certainly not thanks to drum-beating or electoral propaganda. In these cases, discretion works better than clamour. Ilaria Salis is now under house arrest, and I hope that she will be acquitted. In the meantime, the Ministry is having her enrolled in the Register of Italians living abroad, so that she can vote.”

Who carried out this “discreet work” you are talking about?

“From the very beginning, throughout dozens of meetings, our Embassy has maintained positive relations with the Hungarian authorities, without prejudice to our protests about the way Ilaria Salis was treated, especially during her transfer to the courtroom from prison. We did not like what we saw and complained about it several times. However, we never ceased dialoguing and never resorted to threats. The results speak for themselves.”

Is there any chance that Salis could serve house arrest in Italy?

“First, she has to get out of prison, and bail will have to be paid. It will then be up to her lawyers to submit a request for her to be put under house arrest in Italy. If the request is granted, she will be allowed to return.”

Who will post bail?

“Her family. Her father is taking care of it, as he should. They haven’t asked for anything.”

In Florida, another Italian national, Matteo Falcinelli, is accusing the Miami police of mistreating and torturing him. What has the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs done in that regard?

“We have assisted both him and his family, as we do with every Italian national. When we saw the footage of him being mistreated, we complained and called the US Embassy. I must admit that the Embassy and the State Department proved very helpful, cooperative and understanding of our and the family’s concerns. A distinction must be made between the United States and the police officers who arrested Matteo.”

What can you tell us about his family’s conduct?

“They have been decent and responsible. His mother never spoke out against the United States. Matteo said he wants to continue studying there, and maintained a positive attitude. Of course, he is still suffering from the way he was treated. I too am saddened by it.”

Will the Italian government take any civil action against the officers?

“No. We assisted the young man and made ourselves available to his family. I have met with their lawyers and given them all the information they need to safeguard him. Whether they file a case against the officers, it will be up to them to decide.”

Let us change the subject, Minister. In Ukraine, Kiev’s defences appear to be succumbing to the Russian offensive, with the West being indifferent, especially Europe.

“That is just not true. American aid is coming, as will Europe’s. However, there is a big difference between sending aid and going to fight there. The purpose of military aid is to enable Ukraine to defend itself. Sending our soldiers means waging war against Russia. We are not at war with Russia, nor do we want to be. We only want to defend Ukraine’s independence.”

Do you, like the rest of the European People’s Party, want there to be an EU Defence Commissioner after the election?

“I do. It is essential for Europe to be able to defend itself, and we need a commissioner to prepare the ground. Just think of the Operation Aspides, which I already consider to be a European defence operation — although only 27% of the ships we protected flew the Italian flag, the actual proportion is much higher, if you account for ships operated by Italian companies that fly the flags of other states. We have protected both national and European interests.”

What does the future hold? A shared army serving as the “European leg” of NATO?

“Having a single European army is the ultimate goal, but it will take time. We are but in the initial phase, we need to start by coordinating national policies, industrial production, and procurement as best we can. Our defence spending is only one third of the US’, but our military force is certainly not one third of that of the United States.”

Which means that something is not working.

“Exactly. We must work not in opposition to NATO, but to strengthen Europe’s influence within the Alliance. Instead of always asking the United States to intervene, we need to realise that we need to be able to defend ourselves.”

That would mean raising defence spending to 2% of GDP. At present, Italy’s is 1.4% — a dozen billion euro difference.

“I am in favour of aiming for 2% military spending, whilst including expenses for our international missions, which serve to guarantee the security of the West and are therefore perfectly in line with NATO’s objectives.”

Meanwhile, the war in Gaza seems bound to last much longer than Europe thought.

“I just had a conversation with the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz. I urged him not to attack Rafah and told him he would receive a letter from me and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Australia. We are calling for a green light for humanitarian intervention in the Gaza Strip and are in favour of the ceasefire and against the attack on Rafah. Of course, we also want the release of the Israeli hostages.”

And what did the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs say in response to your request not to attack Rafah?

“He listened.”

The call for the release of the hostages should be addressed to the Palestinians.

“It should be addressed to Hamas, which took them hostage. However, with a view to promoting dialogue with Israel, we have been in talks with the Palestinian National Authority: we have invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ramallah to Rome — he will be here by the end of the month. We know how difficult it is, but we are doing everything we can to achieve the goal of having two peoples and two states.”

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