«Do you want to know the truth? I was completely surprised at the idea of the decree’s rejection, because I know very well how the Commission works, and that delicate issues are first studied carefully, and only afterwards is its transparent and authoritative opinion pronounced; this anticipation seems anomalous! And I was even more shocked at reading about unspecified sources, unnamed experts in the Environment Commission». Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini admits that the newspaper headlines announcing “EU perplexities” concerning the solution to the garbage problem in Campania had stunned him. «Also, he adds, because I realised that the information had come from an ethical bank, which I’m sure is extremely reputable, but which has no institutional authority. And so…».
Q. And so?
A. «Things have been written that have nothing to do with what’s really happening».
Q. Mr. Minister, isn’t it a bit comical that the EU is able to obstruct the creation of dumpsites after having imposed sanctions for having failed to collect the garbage?
A. «That would truly be paradoxical. That’s why I can’t believe that the decree could be rejected. I have too much respect for Dimas, who has certainly not only just woken up: we are already at the third procedure against the inaction of the Campania region and the Municipality of Naples and no more than a few days ago we were asked for a structural solution. We responded, without limiting ourselves to simply increasing the number of trainloads to Germany. When we say let’s open up ten dumpsites, we are doing geological projections, deploying the army to impede devastation and the dumping of harmful waste, we are taking structural measures after years of stasis. And I’ll tell you something else: rather than condemnations I expect applause! You’re finally doing something! Even though it is clear by now that there are those in Brussels who go to work against Italy as soon as they have the chance».
Q. That is a problem. There are rumours coming out of Brussels that the issue wasn’t raised by Dimas’ office but as a result of documents delivered complete with underlines and highlights to the Environment Commissioner by Italians: there is talk of the Green Party’s Frassoni, of the office of the Campania Region in Brussels.
A. « Frankly I must say that over the past three and a half years in Brussels I have seen too many Italians working against their country. Just think, someone even went as far as to reprimand me for not being anti-Italian enough, as if the entire commission were (fortunately Barroso and his were exemplary in their fairness). As Vice-President of the Commission I obviously had to ensure my neutrality, and that I did. But I never forgot that I was Italian. So as far as those rumours go—please! I haven’t got all the information, but it doesn’t surprise me. I hope that it’s not for love of country. I would prefer that the Italians behaved like the Spanish did in the Ceuta/Melilla debate, when an authoritative member associated with Aznar stood up and said that at home he contested Zapatero every day, but that in Brussels he was representing his country and was, therefore, determined to defend it».
Q. The fact remains that attacks are coming out of Brussels that have little to do with community policy and a lot to do with domestic policy.
A. «I know, and I say so with regret, having experienced it first hand. In the debate some time back on the Rom situation criticism by the extreme left was directed at Prodi and even more specifically at Amato».
Q. The Italian leftwing in Rome is protesting the Northern League’s proposal for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
A. «The PD [Democratic Party) should at least recall that members of its own family, the PSI [Italian Socialist Party], have called for referendums and, in the case of France, half of them campaigned for a “no” vote. Let’s not manipulate the facts, come on! When Zapatero’s Spain held a referendum the Italian left shouted “hurrah for the democratic process!”. Now if the Northern League wants one is that different? The problem, if anything, is timing. We are working getting the treaty into force by January 1st, and if we are not successful—I hope in the meantime that the upcoming referendum in Ireland has a positive outcome—it’ll be necessary to make a constitutional law calling for a two-thirds majority and four readings in Parliament! It goes without saying that referendums cannot be questioned. Enough of this finger-wagging at the Northern League, which has brought up a problem that others have raised as well».
Q. In the European Council of late June Sarkozy is going to propose a community policy on immigration. You too have been fighting for that for a long time. Do you think it can be done?
A. «I fought for it for three and a half years. Sarkozy’s efforts will be the completion of my proposal, which, if I might refresh your memory, arose at the Hampton Court summit called by Blair and developed during the Portuguese Presidency under the Socialist Socrates! So much for racism and xenophobia! It seems to me that with Sarkozy’s proposals we will have come circle. Many agree with me, even though there is the broad conviction that without unity of action we won’t get anywhere. Our support for Sarkozy is substantial and certainly not just for appearances».