Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi is packing up his things at the Luiss University. The professor of European Law, 63, is emptying his office because his new job as Foreign Minister won’t leave him time for anything else, especially during these days marked by the immigration emergency.
Matteo Salvini has closed Italian ports to another two boats. Is he spurring other countries to open theirs or are we risking that they close up to Italy in the long run?
«Migration is the hottest issue in Europe. And it is growingly felt by public opinion while the European Union has shirked its responsibilities over the issue for too long. After too many postponements, discussions and declarations, this epochal event has never really been tackled.»
Is this what is exacerbating voters in addition to the reaction of governments?
«Yes, it is a contributing factor. The EU’s procedures and regulations are inadequate because they were developed before the migration phenomenon became so critical. And it has never come to an agreement to thoroughly modify them because governments are entrenched behind their own interests. So, the Countries most exposed geographically, where all the migrants arrive, are subjected to rules – the ‘Dublin Regulation’ – which put most of the burden on them. And the less exposed Countries simply sit back. This is very serious for Europe; it undermines the very spirit of the integration process: cooperate, share and find common ground. »
But Italy contributed to rejecting the EU’s compromise to revise the rules.
«The proposed compromise satisfied almost nobody and now the real risk is yet another stalemate at the EU Summit next 28 June. Unless we finally see a surge of political will; we hope to see it happen. »
The Government has taken sides with Hungary and the other Countries of the Visegrad Group, which refuse a redistribution of asylum seekers. Why?
«Many Countries, including Italy, had a negative opinion of the compromise but the reasons against it were often the opposite. The text was insufficient: it maintained too many obligations for the States of first entry and reduced the safeguards for the Countries of the possible final destination. Italy was already against it with its previous Government. I see this ‘alliance’ between Italy and the Visegrad Group more as the fruit of conjectures than of facts. »
Closing ports intends to be a signal to break the stalemate, but is it sustainable?
«In the present phase, the aspect of giving a political signal exists because our aim is to shake the conscience of governments in order to achieve a change of pace. But it is true that the Mediterranean routes expose Italy and upset its citizens more than others. Migrants seek Europe yet the rules issued by that same Europe often block them in the Country in which they arrive. Barriers are back in and Italy is subjected to them. We think that the EU must comprehensively do much more. The issue is European and the same goes for the solution, which must be consistent with the values that are the foundation of life in the Union: of course, only if you really believe in this word. This is why we must radically revise these rules that fragment responsibilities. »
Will the Government present a proposal at the EU Summit?
«Yes. We want to promote change. Firstly, to guarantee the utmost respect for the rights of migrants, starting from fundamental human rights. »
What do you mean?
«For example, to better inform those that leave for economic reasons on what the trip has in store for them: warn them of the violence, the serious risks, the difficulty of finding a decent job. Entirely different is the issue of refugees entitled to asylum, who however must be fairly distributed across all of Europe. We will propose instruments to avoid that the State of first entry bear the brunt while others sit back, turning their back on expressing European solidarity through reception. We can understand everybody’s reasons but we must find new convergence, otherwise we will make the very essence of the European Union devoid of all meaning. »
You too know that this will be difficult.
«More difficult than having Europeans stop fighting each other in the ‘50s after centuries of bloody conflicts? At that time, winners and losers sat around the same table to start the unification of Europe. »
What does your proposal envisage?
«To act as much as possible in the Countries of origin and transit, respecting human rights and combating the horror of human trafficking. For asylum seekers, it means going through all the vetting before they undertake the journey. »
Hotspots in Eritrea or in the areas controlled by Boko Haram?
«I don’t like the term Hotspot; I would call them assistance, information and protection centres. They are necessary, if possible, in the Countries that are the point of departure of migration flows, or in the adjacent regions or in the Countries of transit. They must be European centres, flying the blue flag with 12 stars and personnel from all the EU Member Countries. I am thinking of centres along the routes to which people can turn to receive help, truthful information and the means to go back home. The Odyssey these people face is tragic. It lasts months and years. We are thinking of points of reference and refuge, where they may change their mind and return home. In the cases of clear-cut entitlement to asylum, the vetting process must be organised as close to the place of origin as possible, where it might also be possible to single out the most appropriate destination in the EU; after that, people will be allowed to travel in decent conditions. »
Why do you insist that the centres need to be European?
«To assure the co-responsibility of everyone. If every European knows that there are fellow Europeans there, their confidence in the vetting and decision-making process will be greater. This would make it possible to do away with traffickers, but it is not sufficient. The EU must invest to improve the living and working conditions in the Countries that originate the flows of economic migrants; we must assure better education and training: in short, facilitate their transition towards a modern society with prospects. When this happened in Europe and in Italy, the outflow of emigrants stopped. This is a priority issue for the Union’s next budget and for it to make a quantum leap. We must more seriously commit towards establishing peace and democracy in the areas subjected to war and to liberticidal regimes. I see the difficulties but time is running short. What alternatives are there? The migration issue is changing public opinions everywhere and growingly impacts elections. Trying to avoid the problem won’t solve it. »
So, no «axis» between Italy, Germany and Austria, to quote the words used by the Austrian Chancellor Kurz?
«Apart from the rather unfortunate choice of words, I think that anybody in Europe with good will should converge on achieving results, giving up divisive egoisms and claims. »
Will you put a veto on reconfirming the EU sanctions on Russia?
«The government is making a serious reflection on this. Italy does not like disputes between States; our vocation for peace and cooperation between peoples is enshrined in our Constitution. We are also the second-ranking European Country for exports outside the EU, and therefore it is our interest that world markets remain open. However, reasoning on national interests must be done keeping in mind the norms that regulate international contexts and the obligations that derive from them. »