«For Italy, the European integration process, NATO, and especially the alliance and the loyal friendship with the United States, remain essential cornerstones. The signing of a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with China does not alter our founding guiding principles, especially as it is not legally binding. » The statement was made by Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi in an interview to the economic daily Sole 24 Ore, after having attended the summit meeting with Prime Minister Conte at Palazzo Chigi. Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero has just left Palazzo Chighi where Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had convened him “to establish the basic parameters for economic relations with Beijing and to create a careful monitoring system on respecting the limits outlined in the Memorandum announced by the Premier. » Moavero is getting ready to represent Italy at the monthly meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers on Monday and at the NATO ministerial meeting scheduled in Washington for the beginning of April. Moreover, next week he will be in Brussels together with Prime Minister Conte at the EU Summit of Heads of State and Government, where the discussions will focus on the Brexit, disinformation, the EU-China Summit in April, and the future of Europe (spanning from economic growth to European elections).
First the TAP, then the MUOS maxi-radar, the F35 fighters, and now the 5G technology of China’s Huawei. Yesterday you met with the American Ambassador: is something really changing and, if yes what, in the relations between Italy and the United States?
The Atlantic Alliance is an essential point of reference that I consider to be an imperative for Italy’s foreign policy. The relations between Italy and the United States must be seen within the context of the soundness of a strong alliance, that has been corroborated over time. Also our commitment to NATO remains staunch and loyal. With respect to the new 5G technology, in the light of its potential, it is natural to raise questions of national security; these concerns are shared with the Government. We must always assure the correct flow and confidentiality in data transmission; it is our duty to all the citizens and a priority for the Government.
Next Monday, all the EU Foreign Ministers will meet with their Chinese colleague in Brussels and then, on Thursday night, the Heads of State and Government will address the relations between Europe and China over dinner. Will the Italy-China MoU also be discussed?
It is not a point on the agenda. The discussion will concern preparing for the ad hoc EU-China Summit scheduled for next 9 April. The focus will comprehensively be on the articulate relations that exist between the European Union and China. Then, with respect to the bilateral relations between single EU member Countries and China, it should be kept in mind that countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom have been very active in the past. We therefore have much room for improvement in increasing the presence of our products on Chinese markets because we are objectively behind in our trading with Beijing.
Still next Thursday, you will find the Brexit dossier on the table of the meeting of the Heads of State and Government. How long will the EU still have 28 member States?
It’s almost a puzzle. The issue is raising great suspense, almost as in a Hitchcock film, to stick to a typically British atmosphere. The sequence of votes at the House of Commons reveals a picture in evolution. They voted against both the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Government of the United Kingdom to ‘divorce’ from Brussels and on the No-Deal option. Then they voted on more things: they voted against the deadline extension request to make room for calling a new referendum; they voted in favour of a short postponement till 30 June, on the assumption that on Wednesday, 20 March, on the eve of the European Council, they might vote in favour of the present withdrawal agreement, which has already been been rejected repeatedly. If this occurs, the European Council, in the 27-Member Country format (without Ms May), would need to issue a unanimous vote: the path is still very rough and complex.
What would the impact be on the next European elections?
If the short postponement of the withdrawal expires on 30 June, the British people will not cast their vote because the Parliament will be officially installed on 1 July. Otherwise, there are two options: either leave the EU without a deal at the end of March (therefore without voting for the European elections) or extending the deadline, for a period to be defined, beyond 30 June: in the latter case, also the citizens of the United Kingdom will vote to elect European MPs. Instead, if the Brexit is enforced, then some of the seats assigned to the United Kingdom will be redistributed among the other EU member States in proportion to their population. The total number of seats would drop from the present 751 to 705 and, for example, Italy would be assigned 3 more seats (from 73 to 76).
Besides this, what else is new in these elections?
I think that, for the first time, there will be an open and multifaceted confrontation between different visions of the future of Europe: on the one side, the traditional integrationists, with federalist perspectives, and on the other side, the sovereigntists. In addition, again for the first time, we are witnessing a lively, even rough, political debate that stretches beyond the borders of the States, with debates and clashes between the leaders of different Countries.
Are you hinting at the case between Macron and Di Maio?
Not only. We have to start becoming accustomed to looking at transnational relations within the EU through different eyes. Between member States, there has always been a mixture of cooperation and competition. The economies are strongly interdependent and national interests co-exist with more generally European ones.
The fact remains that, compared to the work done by Monti, Letta, Renzi and Gentiloni, the yellow-green Government has prevented Italy from having the possibility of entering the France-Germany axis.
One of the novelties of the very last years in the life of the EU has been the presence, alongside traditional formats (like the France-Germany axis), of several other groups of countries such as the Visegrad Group or the Hanseatic League in the North or Euromed for the Mediterranean countries: a “groupie” type of variable geometry, so to speak, that makes Europe more similar to an archipelago. This makes it difficult to say that this or that country is ‘isolated’: they are all more ‘insular’ than they were a few years ago.
So, Italy is not isolated even on the issue of migrants?
We insist – quite rightly so, I should say – on greater sharing of responsibility and solidarity. Italy has the credit of clearly setting out the problem in its full complexity: from the actions in the Countries of origin of migrants, to combating human traffickers, to the issue of reception and repatriations. All these burdens must be evenly distributed among the EU member States.