«The return of the French ambassador to Rome is in the order of things. »
So, peace has been made, Minister Moavero Milanesi?
«As far as I have gathered, the recall depended more on several political dynamics than on the two Countries’ diplomatic relations and it is important that the ambassador returned in a relatively short lapse of time. France and Italy have many ties in common and thousands of reasons to maintain an essentially normal relationship. »
Yet, Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio did not hesitate to cause a provocation, the most serious one since 1940.
«Relations between States, especially in the European Union, are characterised by a lively mix of cooperation and competition. We should never be surprised at seeing contradictions. Effervescence is inherent to normality. What is important is to always be courteous and attentive to the other Country’s sensitivities. »
Di Maio met with the leader of the Yellow Vests, Christophe Chalencon, a self-proclaimed coup monger, from whose fiery declarations he later had to distance himself. Don’t you think that the Deputy Prime Minister should have been more cautious?
«Luigi Di Maio specifically distanced himself from a person who professes ways of thinking and acting that would be frowned upon anywhere. This is a positive fact that clears the air. »
Don’t you fear more diplomatic crises, seeing the continuous election competition between Di Maio and Salvini?
«Having brought the diplomatic relations with France back to normal should not induce you to think that everything is as sunshine and rainbows, full of compliments and gallantry. The two Country systems are in competition and therefore we are bound to see more confrontations and divergencies. As this dialectic is bound to continue, also in respect of the political vision, we should be careful with the turns that could be engendered by bouts of excessive misunderstandings. »
In order to patch things up, you were hoping for a dialogue between Conte and Macron, instead the Elysée invited our Head of State. Is the only reliable voice in Italy for EU top-ranking officials that of President Sergio Mattarella?
«France is a Presidential Republic and it’s not so extraordinary for there to be direct contacts between them and our Head of State, what’s more if they are aimed at facilitating a solution. It is only positive. And even more in line with protocol is the invitation to President Mattarella to go to Paris on a State Visit, because it is his task to make these visits and the rule lays down that he should be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. »
Is Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte no longer a credible interlocutor for top-ranking EU officials? At the European Parliament, they called him a «marionette».
«We are passing from a national political arena to a European political arena and we are still in a transition phase. What happened in Strasbourg is indicative of the fact that the tones between European politicians are rising too high. Members of traditional political forces like the People’s Party, the Socialists and the Liberals, now prevail in the EU Parliament and they fear, criticise and attack new and unconventional forces like Lega and M5S. »
Don’t you think that the attack against Conte in the Strasbourg Parliament was aimed at unmasking the weakness of the Italian prime minister, who is torn between Salvini and Di Maio?
«Some, putting their courtesy aside, used a rough and deplorable language. But it’s not the first time this happens. And especially, let us not mistake the epithet used by a member of an adversary political party for the judgment of a judge or an arbiter. »
Is it the «swan song» of the EPP and ESP that Conte hopes for?
«That will be for the voters to say on 26 May. For now, the polls are not univocal and election results are often surprising. To interpret the European elections from a national perspective is reductive. We will be voting to elect a European Parliament that will have to decide on an infinite number of issues that affect the everyday life of all of us citizens. Perhaps for the very first time, we are well aware of the fact that our vote will say how we want the Europe of tomorrow to be. »
Are we the black sheep of Europe?
«Let us not confuse things. If the European Parliament has a politically adverse majority, our prime minister will be greeted with adverse comments, which is exactly what happened. Let us be clear: to call a head of government invited to speak in a solemn context a puppet, is a serious insult. By attacking Conte, the aim was to strike at the Italian government majority, who are their political adversaries. And, by using such rough tones, they simply wanted to make the headlines, as politicians like to do. »
Do you think that the Yellow-Green (Lega-M5S) Government will hold out until 26 May?
«There are two different dynamics under way. Every government receives an impact at elections; it’s physiological. And European elections are even more specific because the two majority parties in Italy are the minority in the European Parliament and they are looking for different spaces and alliances. There is a reciprocal emulation but it won’t stop the government from reaching the European elections. »
If you stop the TAV, how will you manage to withdraw from the four international treaties signed?
«With respect to the TAV, it is essential to clearly and meticulously clarify the facts, the rules and the agreements, and also bring the issue before the Parliament if necessary. The Country needs an act of absolute and unarguable transparency. »
On Venezuela, do you intend to remain isolated or will you recognise Guaidò?
«Our priority is to assure the inflow of humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people. Politically speaking, we do not recognise the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s election while we do recognise the legitimacy of the election of the National Assembly. We would like to favour a reconciliation to enable new presidential elections. So, we share the same goal as the majority of European Countries. »
Is Matteo Salvini trying to find a way into the prime minister’s office before the European elections?
«In the light of all the opinion polls, Salvini’s figure as leader has greatly grown and his leadership has the support of many Italians. As to the future of the government, the Deputy Prime Minister will surely make his political evaluations but, for the time being, I only know what he himself says in public, and that is that this government has to go on working. »
Aren’t you jealous of Salvini’s international visibility?
«When a minister of the interior deals with migration, he necessarily projects his image abroad. I’m not jealous, also because, if I were, I would have to be jealous of every minister who is also obliged to manage an international dimension. I would be worse than Othello, who at least only had one rival. »