Enzo Moavero Milanesi, 65, Foreign Minister over the last 15 months, spends his Sunday afternoons putting in order his office in the silence-shrouded Farnesina.
Your colleague Giovanni Tria says that Italy’s internal divisions make us unaware of everything that is going on outside. Do you agree?
«It is inevitable for a Nation to focus on its own issues. It’s typical of a democracy, especially at a time of ferment, and it does not only happen in Italy. But it’s true: we should not exaggerate in the attention we place on internal dynamics. This leads us to underplay the broader horizon, as they did in Great Britain. »
Do you fear that the political crisis will make the Country lose sight of its interests in Europe and in the world?
«I hope not. Italy is not a closed system, nor is it self-sufficient or marginal. We remain major players on the international scene. We are a globally important Country. Our industry produces the fifth-largest trade surplus in the world and the functioning of our economy is interconnected with that of other Countries. »
What horizon do we risk not seeing?
«The context in which we were established, successfully if I may add, is changing. Technologies make things more fluid. Let us take the example of the G7: it was established in the ‘70s with the world’s seven leading economies of the time. Today, two of these – Italy and Canada – are no longer among the top seven while two other non-G7 Countries – China and India – are. In twenty years from now, no European State will have an economy comprisable among the world’s leading seven economies. Instead, the European Union and the same Eurozone taken together, will stand soundly on the podium of the world’s three largest economies. »
You know the criticisms raised: with this government, Italy has become isolated and has lost weight.
«I don’t see Italy being isolated. Nonetheless, the real point is influence: we all aspire to have more. But the problem has surely not come up now and it is a syndrome that I see in many more Countries. Italy matters and has the power to aggregate when it presents high-quality ideas to others: for example, at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, I presented concrete proposals to manage migration flows that are receiving great attention and support. Another example: it was said that we isolated ourselves on the sanctions against Russia but in actual fact we remained aligned with our partners. »
Did you feel uncomfortable when the government joined China’s New Silk Road project?
«Perhaps amazed, because of the misleading perception held of the agreement. In this case too, I never doubted clearly giving priority to remaining loyal to Italy’s alliances and to its security over commercial relations. Today’s fluidity in international relations muddles points of reference but I think we should keep at least three very soundly in mind: the UN, a forum of debate and peace; the European integration process, the main roadmap for the future of the peoples of Europe; NATO and our friendship with the United States, a guarantee of security against old and new threats. »
Aren’t multilateral organisations going through a period of crisis?
«Organisations such as the G7, the World Trade Organisation, the UNO and the EU itself, all need reforms. They need to be renewed in order to become stronger. But, beyond that, I think that Italy should also develop lines of action of its own direct interest. »
What would the priorities be?
«In these past few months, I have pursued four. First, a Mediterranean finally stabilised and pacified, free of conflict, to become a free trade economic area and an enormous opportunity for us. Second, there is a semi-circular maritime route from the Far East via Southeast Asia, India and the Gulf, to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean: a route that crosses some of the most dynamic areas in the world and, at the end, our ports, capable of succeeding to become the gateway to Europe. It is an extraordinary opportunity. Third, we should stop thinking of Africa only as the place of origin of migrants: it is a continent characterised by remarkable economic growth and where democracy is spreading. It is a place in which to make investments, create jobs and favour the training of qualified managers. Fourth, South America and its natural affinities with us, where many people are of Italian descent: there is great interest there for our companies and universities. »
Has this vision of an Italy open to the world ever made you feel incompatible with the outgoing government?
«I have always worked to prevent or tone down anything liable to raise difficulties. This made it necessary for me to frequently work in silence, with loyalty, avoiding to make the headlines and any form of bickering. »
And what if the EU favoured the creation of a PD-M5S coalition government by closing an eye on everything as long as they manage to free themselves of the souverainism of the Lega Party?
«Political affinities or contrasts have always existed in Europe and they are bound to grow with the Europeanisation of the political arena. But the rules remain the same and it is correct to expect lines of action, evaluations and decisions from EU Institutions fully compliant with their duty of independence. »