Italy has not changed its mind and, on the contrary, even more resolutely advances its own “Ostpolitik” in favour of the Western Balkans’ membership in the European Union. Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi clearly reiterated this position yesterday at Brdo pri Kranju as he chaired the Committee of Italo-Solvenian ministers’ committee.
Slovenia is in the midst of a heavy financial crisis. What impressions did you come away with after your meetings in Brdo?
Slovenia is acting with determination on both domestic and European fronts. The Ljubljana parliament approved an important package of budget laws in 2012 that should shore up public finances. On the European front Slovenia has already ratified the recently adopted economic-financial provisions known as the Fiscal Compact and European Stability Mechanism. The picture is complex, but we are confident that Slovenia is on the right path.
After the much acclaimed but never realised Motorway of the Sea, we now have the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor. Is the city of Koper on the route or not?
It is. The Corridor is destined contribute in a significant way to enhancing the Motorways of the Sea, strengthening the links between northern Adriatic ports and northern European transport networks, and these in turn with the markets of Eastern Europe and Asia. The Corridor will make it possible for the areas involved to become platforms connected by “logistical transport chains” leading to integrated port, cargo, railway and road activities.
Then there is the lingering question of the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region.
Italy is working very hard on convincing the Council of Europe to charge the Commission with drafting an EU strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region within the year. Italy and Greece will hold the Presidency in 2014, and we intend to see to it that by that time the European prospects of all the non-EU countries of the region (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) become a concrete reality, in virtuous sync with the EU member countries participating in the strategy (Italy, Slovenia, Greece and Croatia). The political significance is obvious: on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War the Adriatic-Ionian countries find unity and cohesion in shared European values.
In the energy sector, Slovenia has set up a company with Gazprom for the management of the Southstream gas pipeline. What is Italy’s strategy in the northeast?
We intend to foster the interconnection and integration of energy markets, in the Northeast as in the other fundamental Mediterranean and southeastern corridors. It is necessary to develop an infrastructure network in order to diversify sources and supply routes, and with this in mind we are keeping an eye on those projects capable of increasing energy flows toward Italy, to the betterment of Italy’s energy security and, more generally, Europe’s.
So Southstream is consistent with Italy’s strategy?
Italy supports this project, in which ENI has a 20% share in the building of the offshore section. If the idea of a pipeline connection at Tarvisio instead of in Austria were to prevail, that stake would increase.
Croatia is soon to be the 28th member of the EU, but there is the risk of Slovenia’s veto over the Ljubljanska Banka question.
We hope that bilateral issues are composed in a uniform way without consequences to the enlargement process. We expect everyone to show strategic vision and political farsightedness.
Germany, however, is proving increasingly contrary to EU enlargement, and indeed does not consider Croatia ready for membership.
I have often discussed enlargement with my German friends and I must say that we agree on many things. I am thinking of our common vision of enlargement as a political instrument by which to encourage candidate countries to adopt European standards, with all the attendant positive implications for development, increased prosperity and strengthened rule of law.
So Italy is in favour of the EU’s enlargement eastward?
We have a clear strategy that considers the Western Balkans’ European integration an essential development, stabilisation and reconciliation factor in keeping with the individual merits and capacities of each nation.
An enlargement that includes Turkey as well?
Certainly, in the interests of Italy, of Turkey and of the EU itself. The Commission’s new “positive agenda” is a good framework that will give renewed impetus to negotiations with Ankara and encourage visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens.
In the context of the current reductions, what will the fate of the Consulate General of Koper be?
I have decided to appoint a new Consul General, Maria Cristina Antonelli, a person with extensive consular experience. So, even at this very difficult financial juncture, we plan to maintain Koper, which sends a strong signal of respect for our Italian minority community and our cultural, political and economic presence in Slovenia.