ROME. "No country is immune from the risks. The Islamic State (IS) movement has attracted disciples in the West too". Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has just registered the Parliament’s green light to send arms to the Kurds. She’s sitting in the courtyard at Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Parliament. Asked about her chances of becoming the European Union’s High Representative for foreign policy, a decision Europe’s leaders will be making on 30 August, she is unruffled. Her face conveys a sense of calm conviction that she can do it, although she does not say so openly.
ROME. "No country is immune from the risks. The Islamic State (IS) movement has attracted disciples in the West too". Seated in the courtyard at Palazzo Montecitorio, the Italian Parliament building, Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has just registered the Parliament’s go-ahead to send arms to the Kurds. A question about her chances of becoming the European Union’s High Representative for foreign policy, a decision Europe’s leaders will be making on 30 August, leaves her unruffled. Her face conveys a sense of calm conviction that she can make it, although she does not say so openly.
Minister, are you pleased with the way the Government and Parliament have acted in the Iraqi crisis?
"Italy advocated the adoption of a European framework, something that was by no means a given. What’s happening now in the Middle East is not just a humanitarian emergency. It’s linked to Europe’s and Italy’s security. To use [Prime Minister] Renzi’s words, Europe is the bearer of a vision and of values that are part of its political DNA. Reacting in these scenarios is part of our raison d'être".
In what respect is this a security issue?
"IS wants to bring us to a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West. But it’s a terrorist organisation that’s using religion to pursue its own bloody ends. Islam has nothing to do with all this. Indeed, there’s been a firm reaction from the Arab world against this campaign to exterminate Yazidis, Christians and Muslims".
By sending arms to the Kurds, are we creating a risk of attacks in Italy?
"That worry exists, but it’s no greater today, after this decision, than it was one, two or three weeks ago. Anyway, it’s clear that no country is immune from risk: ISIS has disciples in the West too. The number of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq shows this, as does the news, if it proves to be true, that Jim Foley’s assassin is British. It’s clear that Europe has not only a duty to tackle this problem, but a keen interest in doing so".
Italy currently holds the EU Presidency. Is it working on specific initiatives?
"We’re already working with all the actors in the region, starting with Iran and Turkey, and the Gulf countries too. First and foremost, we’re taking a broader view: I think it’s vital to build a new regional equilibrium in the Middle East, one that involves all the key actors in all the crisis situations, not least because they’re all deeply connected. We can no longer try to tackle the crises in Libya, Syria and Iraq separately. We need a plan for the entire region, and that can only be done by involving all the actors, some of whom haven’t spoken to each other yet. I’m convinced that this task is worthy of the European Union’s international commitment and aspirations. I believe the time has come to take on our responsibilities as Europeans and to act as leading players on the world stage".
What will Italy’s role be?
"Italy can play, indeed is already playing, a leading role in Europe, given our good relations with all the actors in the region. The emergency now is to halt IS and protect the civilian population, while at the same time working on the political initiative".
Will we also have contacts with Iran?
"I’ve already spoken several times with Foreign Minister Zarif and I’ll be receiving him when he visits Italy in early September"
How do you intend to tackle the Syrian problem?
"The strategy on Syria needs to be reviewed, with an approach like the one adopted on Iraq. We must create a European and international framework that takes all the developments into account. At the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers taking place in Milan on 29 and 30 August we’ll be working on an overall political strategy for the Middle East, which we’ll then share with the other international actors".
Is Italy’s role on Iraq giving us a stronger hand in the other European negotiations, like the ones on the public accounts?
"Public opinion is focusing increasingly on the need to find satisfactory economic policies. Let me give you an example: people always say that Europe doesn’t have a common foreign policy. But we’ve shown that when the will to act exists, the instruments to do so can be found. The same goes for the economy. If the awareness and political will exist, then the instruments to provide a response can be found".
Will the initiative on Iraq, including Renzi’s visit to Baghdad and Erbil, help overcome the doubts voiced by some of our partners regarding your bid to become the Union’s "foreign minister"?
"Nobody has actually criticised my candidacy in formal terms. There’s an overall problem related to the balance between the different political families and geographical regions, and my bid. In any case, the team-work on Iraq has been excellent. It’s a good way to work, and it shows that when there’s a political will Europe can provide answers. Quickly, and speaking with one voice. And that’s the Europe we like, the one that Europeans are asking for".
How would you respond to the criticisms voiced by M5S and SEL [Italian political parties: Movimento Cinque Stelle and Sinistra Ecologia Libertà]
"I don’t want to get into any disputes. My first statement on Iraq focused on the creation of a humanitarian corridor, on which the international community has been working for weeks. The problem is how to create it. The only possible medium-term solution is political, not military, as we well know".