A «Mediterranean Erasmus» to create the conditions for greater cultural integration among the Countries bordering the Mediterranean was the announcement made by the Foreign Minister, Angelino Alfano. Today, in Palermo, he will open the first OSCE Conference, jointly held with the Countries of North Africa and entirely dedicated to the problem of migrants and their integration. “It is the first effective act of the Italian presidency of the OSCE,” explained Italy’s chief diplomat, “and we wanted it to occur in a place that was the backdrop to the cohabitation of different cultures, showing that it is possible to coexist in peace, without generating conflict. We must put our stakes on security, knowing that culture too can be an essential component. With this meeting we want to highlight the central role of the Mediterranean in the broader issue of security in Europe. This is why the partnership with the Countries of the Southern shore is essential: we must share more information, develop common strategies, and involve them in political processes.”
Libya is the guest of honour at the Conference. How much progress have they made into the internal conciliation process and how are the agreements with Italy working?
«We continue to support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Ghassan Salamé, who has successfully concluded the first part of his plan. However, we must continue working on a key issue: the relationship between the civil and military powers. We are in favour of a process that might include the East. Please remember that the dialogue between East and West marked an important achievement in Rome, when the presidents of the two Parliaments met. The aim is to reach the broadest possible consensus but it is evident that it must be grounded on the subordination of the military power to civilian authorities. After that, everyone will be able to run in a free political competition. In the meantime, we support the legitimate institutions in their effort to govern and we deem the results obtained in the struggle against terrorism and human trafficking to be relevant. The cooperation between Italy and Libya has produced a growing drop in illegal migration flows, also thanks to the reduced transit across the border with Niger. We are now working to stabilise these results. »
The fall of Raqqa certifies the defeat of ISIS but also poses the problem of the foreign fighters who will try to return to Europe. The British and the French have announced a very tough line of action. London in particular said that British foreign fighters will not be captured and arrested but killed. How concrete is the threat of Islamic fighters returning to Italy?
«Up to now we have managed to make Italy a safe and compassionate Country, saving human lives and guarding it in a world in which – we need to underscore this – zero risk does not exist. Having said this, the alert level remains high. We can count on an extraordinary counter-terrorism service and an equally high-quality intelligence agency. We have advanced legislation and an effective working method thanks to the Strategic Counter-Terrorism Analysis Committee. The number of foreign fighters in some way involved with Italy has been limited up to now compared to other Countries. But we know that only a handful are enough to do something serious. This is why our international cooperation system remains active, with an exchange of information and the timely sharing of news that can turn out to be game-changing. And this is why we must continue to keep up our guard, also collaborating with web providers, who play a crucial role in prevention. »
The victory of your colleague and fellow party member Sebastian Kurz in Austria was thanks to a very hard line on immigration and a very restrictive stand on integration. Moreover, Kurz could ally with the FPOE, a party with neo-Nazi roots. Is upholding an extreme-right agenda a model for European people’s parties?
«I spoke with Kurz only a few days ago in Brussels and I listened to his speech, in which he reaffirmed his pro-people and pro-European stand as a supporter of the integration process. »
Even if Italy has sometimes given off a few sparks with him.
«I too reacted when he proposed to take all the immigrants rescued in the Mediterranean to Lampedusa. But I had faced the very same issue as minister of the interior, when Vienna’s Socialist-led government threatened to build a wall at the Brenner Pass. The road to take is that of an efficient and loyal management of our common border, recalling that up to now, there have been more transits from Austria to Italy than the other way around. »