Minister Frattini, is this blocking of visas for European citizens another provocative act by Gaddaffi?
«Gaddaffi reacted to the Swiss decision toe deny entry into Switzerland to the Libyan president and foreign minister Mussa Koussa, as well as another 186 Libyans, because they were considered a threat to the country’s security. As if the Bern government had put them on a black list. This is not the Schengen accord that we know. By acting in this way Switzerland holds the other Schengen area countries hostage».
According to the Italian government did Switzerland act wrongly?
«Obviously we are hoping that Libya withdraws its decision as soon as possible, we are seriously concerned and have urged Tripoli to reconsider. But the Confederation’s act, which in fact associated Gaddaffi and other Libyan representatives with international terrorists, could perhaps have been avoided. Some days ago I wrote personally to my Swiss colleague Kalmi-Rey to confirm our help in resolving the dispute with Tripoli. But, as I noted on that occasion, the other countries party to the Schengen accord cannot be held hostage awaiting its resolution. It is not right for Switzerland to employ Schengen Treaty as a means of pressure; there are other instruments for resolving bilateral problems with Libya. Schengen must be used for its own ends and, I repeat, it originated as a means for protecting the countries party to it from criminals and terrorists. What would happen if, purely as an example, Luxembourg were to have a problem with Jordan or France with Egypt, and the two decided to close Europe’s borders to those countries’ citizens? Using that accord to resolve bilateral issues is risky».
But Gaddaffi’s reaction to Switzerland directly affects Italian citizens and our economic interests; many in the opposition are wondering why the government isn’t reacting, considering the accord Berlusconi and Gaddaffi signed last year in Rome, that caused a great stir in the media and that cost Italy 5 billion euro.
«The Italo-Libyan accord has nothing to do with what is happening between Libya and Europe. This is a case of the Schengen accord, which is intended to restrict the circulation of the citizens of a third country, in this case Libya, if one of its signatories opposes it, in this case Switzerland».
The European Commission’s reaction yesterday evening was quite severe: Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem «deplored» what she called Tripoli’s «unilateral and disproportionate» response, announcing that she would be evaluating «a reaction».
«Our position is not in contradiction with that of Europe. We have said that everything resulted from Switzerland’s excessive action, which was followed by a Libyan reaction that provoked amplified consequences that, as such, are worrisome to the countries of Europe who adhere to the Schengen Treaty. But that is not the point: a solution must be found at Community level, and Italy has suggested that the EU take steps in both capitals to find common accord on a technical solution to the problem».
«For example, visas could be issued to Libyan citizens for entrance into the countries of the Schengen area with the exception of Switzerland. That way there would be no reason for Libya to extend its reaction to the other Schengen countries. We will be discussing this at the upcoming meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. We have also asked to discuss the issue in the context of the Schengen Committee meeting scheduled for the day after tomorrow in Brussels ».
In the meantime?
«In the meantime Italians who have permanent visas for Libya may enter. The others will have to wait a few days».