Minister Moavero, the budget bill passed after quite a bit of disagreement and controversy. Why was it absolutely necessary to close a deal with Brussels?
«Our Country forms part of the Euro, the European single currency, which requires respect for several parameters in keeping public finances aimed at guaranteeing the currency’s stability and value. Reaching an agreement with the Commission enabled us all not to expose ourselves to financial instability, which is always unpredictable.»
But was there really the danger of an infringement procedure?
«Without doubt and a very tangible one at that. The Commission had already announced opening a procedure over the total amount of our public debt. Just to make an example of the possible negative fallout, had the Commission started the procedure, it would have required our Country to reduce the debt by sizable amounts and in a short lapse of time and all this would have translated into higher taxes. I always thought it should be avoided. »
Who draw up the budget: the government or Brussels, as members of the opposition claim?
«This dispute is weird. The budget was drawn up by the government and voted by Parliament, as is customary in every Country. The Commission plays a supervisory role to protect the interests of the whole European community and controls that certain numeric thresholds are not exceeded. ».
Both you and the Minister of Economy Giovanni Tria – who, these last few days, has been included in a possible cabinet reshuffling plan – had no easy task in Brussels. Do you think that a ‘cabinet reshuffling’ is possible?
«Independently from specific people, replacements are made by the Prime Minister and by the President of the Republic. So, I would leave it up to them to make the decision. »
In May we will vote for the European Parliament. What do you think is at stake?
«For a number of concurrent causes, these will be the first real political elections in Europe, in which adjustments in the respective national political balances will take second place. We, the voters, know that we will be casting our vote to influence Europe’s fundamental decisions and common policies over the next five years. »
What do you think is behind this change in perspective?
«I believe that the public opinions of different EU Member States, after decades of seeing Europe move forward by inertia, shaken by the economic crisis and large migration flows, are raising questions that in the past were only raised in restricted forums of debate. »
So, do you think that there might be a radical change in the European project?
«We will have to wait for the vote to see if this is possible but I believe that people, at the polls, will think they can effectively be influent, and this is totally true. Oversimplifying, we could say that the choice is between relaunching European integration, perhaps on different grounds, and returning to the national sovereignty logic. But the situation is much more varied than that although these two positions represent the extremes. Whatever one may think, the European Union really needs an overhaul. »
During the past few weeks the Global Compact for Migration has been widely debated but not in Parliament. Do you think the subject will come up sooner or later?
«The issue of migration deserves utmost attention, in all European Countries and throughout the world. Migration is an epochal phenomenon and it is normal for it to be addressed by governments and supranational organizations. So, the United Nations drew up the Global Compact, a text that puts forth several issues, perhaps also because they are scarcely known. I deem it more than necessary to have an in-depth debate, also in Parliament. »
Africa, for us, is only a source of immigration while for other Countries, with China at the lead, it is an investment and development opportunity. Why do you think this is so?
«It is short-sighted to look at Africa through old stereotypes. Africa is recording a much greater economic growth than Europe and is expanding significantly, not only demographically. For a Country such as ours, jutting out into the Mediterranean, it is not only natural but also dutiful to look out to Africa: precisely for the opportunities that it offers for our business community. It offers a great trade and investment potential in every possible sector: agriculture, industry and the tertiary.»
Speaking about economically important areas, you are scheduled to go to Washington in a few days. Will you also talk about Iran and sanctions?
«For Italy, Iran is an important partner and not only now. We believe that dialogue should always be preserved and privileged in order to find effective solutions. We are loyal members of the system of alliances to which we belong and we understand that this requires commitment. However, imposing sanctions on States must continue to be an exceptional instrument used to achieve compliance with international law. Of course, I intend to include this in my talks with our American allies. »
Besides the sanctions on Iran, there are also the ones on Russia. Do you see a hint of change or do you think that 2019 will continue to be a year of sanctions?
«We discussed the matter at the OSCE Conference in Milan at the beginning of the month. I repeat: dialogue must continue, also in consideration of the conflicts that have arisen in the wake of the end of the Soviet Union. We support the Minsk Agreements and the sanctions in place can act as a temporary stimulus to implement them. »
What will you be discussing in Washington?
«I will be there on the 3rd and 4th of January and I will meet with Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Advisor Bolton and Congress leaders. The United States are our friends and our principal ally. We have very strong economic and cultural ties, also thanks to the presence of a dynamic community of Italian descent. Conversations will be wide-ranging, with a special focus on the nearby Mediterranean scene, in which we need the support of the United States. »
In Brazil, Bolsonaro is about to take office; do you think that getting them to return Battisti is just a question of time?
«The decision to extradite him was extremely important and dutiful, specially to honour the victims and their families. We are closely monitoring the search efforts of the Brazilian authorities and we confide that we will soon be able to bring to justice a person convicted for several horrible crimes. »