Migrants continue to die in the Mediterranean – there is talk of up to 2500 victims since the start of the year. Minister Gentiloni, what are we doing and what can we do?
«We have had a record number of arrivals this year, but also a record number of rescues. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort goes into it – and thanks to us is finally being shared by Europe – it is impossible to avoid tragic episodes. But, despite the victims, we have to be proud of our country for being in the forefront of an exceptional humanitarian operation. Others are erecting walls or quarrelling over a few hundred migrants at their borders».
Minister Alfano has spoken of the volcano Libya, the migrants’ country of transit. Has the post Gadhafi transition failed?
«We mustn’t lose hope in establishing the minimum basis for rebuilding a united and more stable Libya. Sounding the drum-roll in the absence of that minimum basis is useless, we must insist on the negotiated plan. The dialogue resumes Wednesday in Morocco, but it needs to be clear that we are racing the clock in efforts to strengthen what was put together on 12 July, i.e. Tobruk, Misurata, Zintan and the majority of the municipalities of Tripoli, and, hopefully, extend it to include the GNC [Tripoli parliament, editor’s note]. Time is crucial and is not unlimited, especially now that the Daesh presence in Sirte has taken on some alarming features. Either we conclude in the next few weeks or we are going to have another Somalia a few steps from our coast and will have to react differently. How? By placing Libya on the international anti-Daesh coalition’s agenda, in the knowledge that it would no longer be a question of stabilising the country but of containing terrorism».
Was it a mistake to intervene in Libya in 2011?
«It was, without a doubt, a mistake not to associate the intervention with any idea about how to manage the aftermath. Italy could have made itself heard on this, but unfortunately we joined that operation with what was perhaps the weakest government in our history as a republic – I am talking about the final stage of the Berlusconi government. Today, any new intervention has to be launched within the framework of peace negotiations that include all Libyans. Italy will contribute, but only on that condition».
As Director Calabresi reported from Symi, the Syrian exodus are from the middle class. Are we doing enough? Was it an error not to intervene in Syria?
«Italy did its part: we were the first, two years ago, thanks to former minister Bonino, to discourage the temptation to “resolve” the Syrian crisis solely by bombarding Assad. It seems to me that this position is now more broadly shared, especially after the Iranian nuclear pact. We are seeing the distance narrow between those who wanted to bomb Assad before any discussion and those who defended him out of hand. Talk now is of a political transition and Assad’s eventual exit from the stage, but not into the void. Of course we are still a long way off, but we are working: diplomacy is an uphill climb in this world without superpowers».
At the basis of the polemic with Church officials is their accusation that politicians are dramatizing the case of a few tens of thousands of desperate refugees as compared with 60 million migrants in the world. How do you respond?
«The message of the Church deserves respect in any case. Naturally a government has to manage and regulate reception and cannot simply say come on over and you’ll be welcome. But our government also has the duty to stop those who peddle fear and the illusion of an invasion or promise easy solutions, neither of which exist. Maroni spent more time as interior minister than any other single person in the past 20 years. I did not see any miracles. Immigration is not an unexpected catastrophe but a phenomenon that will be permanent for the next 10,15 years. The flow may change in size; Calabresi’s reportage, for example, shows that while last year the Syrians were coming mainly to Italy, they are now choosing the Turkish-Greek route. But the challenge has to be confronted straight on: immigration has to be managed and regulated, with all its associated risks and opportunities. We cannot change our geography, nor sully our history as a civil nation. Those who claim a clear identification with the Left for the PD should look for it on this terrain rather than in open lists or the manner in which senators are elected».
At 70 years on from Hiroshima, is there reason to trust in an Iranian nuclear pact?
«It musn’t be taken for granted, but history allows for the hope that a country like Iran can once again become a positive player. The pact leads in that direction».
Are we risking a new Cold War with Putin?
«That would be utter disaster, and it is my hope that Russia does not do anything to justify such a development. I would point out that the binary approach of sanctions and dialogue is that of the majority of the international community. There are dangers. The situation needs to be monitored, as the truce is very fragile. I am not afraid only of escalation but also of Ukraine crisis scenarios that Russia could take advantage of. Italy is firmly pursuing the path of dialogue».
Obama has changed an historic paradigm in Cuba: will we miss the US as the policemen of the world?
«I neither espouse the line of those who criticise the US as the policemen of the world nor that of those who are going to miss them. Obama said that he would withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and he did; that he would have worked with Asia without neglecting the Middle East, and he has. He has kept his promise of Obamacare, and reached out to Iran and Cuba. To his many critics I say let’s wait 10, 15 years to pronounce judgement».
Will the Marines be coming home?
«Italy is convinced it is right: the Enrico Lexie was in international waters and the two Marines were on duty in an anti-piracy operation».