Born in Avellino, in the Malzoni Clinic, Luigi di Maio returns as Foreign Minister. This return home, after two days spent in Naples, comes after a successful career first as political chief of he 5 Star Movement and, today, as the Italian Foreign Minister. This will be a whistlestop tour of the province of Avellino, after a complicated Friday for the city and for the development of the province as a whole, with an eye to the forthcoming local elections. The first stop in Ariano Irpino, the harsh but strong land of Generoso Maraia, a sharp Member of Parliament, as well as a witness to and heir of the great battles of Tricolle. This is the background to our exclusive interview, with a premise and a promise: no mention of the regional elections. We can touch on any subject, but not Mr. De Luca, due to the bitter relations. Let's begin with some national issues.
Minister Di Maio, yesterday you returned to Naples for the Summit with the French President Emmanuel Macron at the Royal Palace. How did it go?
The Naples Summit is the political synthesis of the collaboration between Italy and France.
In what way?
The participation at the highest level of the Italian and French authorities.
Many of the issues you discussed there are of fundamental importance.
We touched on all the key international issues with our French friends, beginning with the Libyan situation, concerning which we re-iterated our common objectives and the importance of collaboration to achieve the stabilisation of the Country, which must necessarily be founded on the support of the process defined at the Berlin Conference, under the aegis of the UN.
What about relations with Europe?
We must keep on encouraging all the parties to constructively contribute to dialogue, condemning all external interferences and the violations of the embargo and emphasising the need for the European Union to play a more active role, both politically and for the implementation of the commitments undertake in Berlin.
Europe and the Mediterranean, a great challenge for France and Italy is it not?
Generally speaking, we have confirmed the special, intense and profound, relationship between Italy and France, which is unrivalled and on which we can rely both bilaterally and multilaterally, in every field. We have common values and purposes which we consider crucial for the development of Europe and the stabilisation of the Mediterranean.
Naples, your homeland, a part of your life. Are you proud of this choice?
I would like to close with a special thought for the city of Naples, which hosted the Summit, confirming its essence as a city that the represents the best of the Mediterranean dimension, shared by Italy and France.
Your thoughts about the coronavirus outbreaks?
In Italy, only 0.1% of all communes is affected by the epidemic, people in quarantine and self-isolation account for only 0.089% of the country's population, and the areas on lockdown are only 0.01% of the country. All the patients hospitalised at the Spallanzani Hospital have recovered. All the cases being treated originated in the two worst affected areas in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, and there is even a possibility, which is being looked into, as reported by the Health Minister Speranza, that there was only one outbreak, not two. The new government decree we are preparing will include measures aimed at curbing the forms of abuse in the sale of face masks and hand gels. The cheats who are speculating on the price of face masks and hand gel will be severely punished.
Your tour of Campania will continue, this morning, at Pomigliano to inaugurate the Leonardo Campus.
The presence of Leonardo in Campania features technological excellence, highly specialised staff and a solid industrial presence in the fields of airplane and helicopter manufacturing and defence electronics. Leonardo also collaborates with the principal local universities and research centres.
Is this a quality response for the South?
In total, the Group employs over 4,600 people in 6 plants in Campania, 3,500 of which at Pomigliano d'Arco and Nola alone, with a focus on the aeronautics centre. The Pomigliano d'Arco plant, therefore, is the biggest Leonardo site in the South of Italy and represents the focus of the group's civil aeronautics activities. Here, this morning, there will be the inauguration of the first of the "Labs" through which Leonardo intends to strengthen technological development, to foster innovation and look into new technological solutions for responding to the needs of the market.
Which are its specific features?
The new Campus will host, from March 2020, the Aerotech Academy, a Master in aeronautical engineering, in partnership with Federico II University of Naples.
This project is grounded on the excellence of our technological sector and is giving rise to what is an actual "technological revolution" - precisely at Pomigliano d'Arco - in one of the leading sectors of our country's industry, the aeronautics sector, strengthening it with the possibilities offered by the technology associated with artificial intelligence.
In the province of Avellino, instead, you will visit the Industria Italiana Autobus plant, which has been going through a long and tormented history, with great hopes for the future.
My visit to the Flumeri plant of Industria Italiana Autobus confirms something I have always supported.
When Italy as a whole comes together we can achieve important results. You may remember, in fact, that from the start of my tenure at the Ministry for Economic Development, in 2018, I strived to make sure that the Government respected its commitment to keep the Bologna and Flumeri plants open and we are now reaping the rewards of this work. At the end of January, in fact, the company held an extraordinary general meeting that enabled it to offset the losses and decide a capital increase.
What is the outlook today?
The new shareholder structure of Industria Italiana Autobus features a 50% stake held by the State, through Leonardo and Invitalia. Thanks to our commitment, with the support of the shareholder Leonardo and the acquisition of a stake by Invitalia, with a role of directorship in the company's management, it has been possible to launch an effective plan for the new Industria Italiana Autobus, which has finally entered a new positive stage after some very turbulent.
How can the economy of the entire south of Italy recover and develop? What do you think of the new Plan for the South recently presented in Reggio Calabria?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is doing its utmost to support our production system, in Italy and abroad, and create new opportunities: for both small and medium enterprises and large groups, which already boast a leading influence internationally, thanks to the quality, competence and resources produced by all our regions.
Even though you now hold the position of Foreign Minister?
The transfer to the Foreign Ministry of the skills built up with regard to our foreign trade policies, and for the internationalisation of Italian companies, which were originally the preserve of the Ministry for Economic Development, since my appointment as Foreign Minister, will enable us to promote a wealth of know how, capabilities and skills, also in area, such as the south of Italy, where the tools implemented in support of businesses are not always known to all. We intend to increasingly promote, abroad, the investment opportunities in the southern regions and, with the same commitment, to boost the internationalisation of all our production sectors.