Manlio Di Stefano, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, and member of the 5-Star Movement is convinced that nothing will be the same after this Pandemic, beginning with the European Union.
Italy is receiving aid from China, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, all countries that until recently were considered illiberal, at best, by the public opinion. Has anything changed in recent weeks?
The public opinion is often manipulated by the political and media narrative. Italy has always been in good relations with those countries. Indeed, both the governments led by Prime Minister Conte have intensified those relations because we firmly believe in building a multilateral foreign policy approach, albeit in the context of our Euro-Atlantic pole. This disposition is being rewarded today with gestures of concrete solidarity by those Countries, first and foremost, and many others besides.
We're talking of two Countries where power is in the firm grip of a single party, a Bolivarian government and the former land of the Soviets. Is this a resurgence of the former Socialist bloc as an alternative?
We shouldn't put together these gestures with reflections on the socio-political conditions in those Countries, the truth of the matter is that Italy is a much-loved Country worldwide and has been able enough to adroitly juggle itself in the war between the two blocs after the Cold War.
Speaking of blocs, several European Countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, have seized face masks destined for Italy. Theseare populist nationalist Countries led by the political allies of Salvini. Are you considering any measures to prevent these Countries from further actions against aid for Italy?
Unfortunately it's not just these two Countries, and it is often the case of national Parliaments banning exports of essential materials at a time of crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although we understand their concerns, these should not target orders that have already been paid for and are just passing through the country; therefore, the steps are to instruct our Embassies to lodge formal complaints, speak to the political institutions and, if necessary, even threaten retaliatory measures. In the majority of cases, the first two steps have proved sufficient.
Will the pandemic redesign the international balance of power?
This pandemic is a wake-up call for all those who claim that the European Union cannot be changed, caught up as it is in its bureaucracy and its self-imposed, yet apparently insurmountable, procedures. It should now be clear to all that, if necessary, certain arrangements can be smashed, especially with regard to the economy. We need to apply this concept after the crisis as well, to reshape the European Union to ensure that it finally effectively meets the needs of the European citizens.
Now that Brussels has suspended the Stability Pact to tackle this emergency, can the member States access ESM funding without the normal conditions applying?
I certainly hope so, although I struggle to see this as a real solution. The ESM, in fact, is built around those conditions, as the Greek crisis showed. This is why I think it would be better to focus on the ECB's capacity to stabilise the markets and drive the European financial markets, rather than pin our hopes on the ESM.
Will the European Union survive this crisis?
Yes, of course, but nothing will be the same again because its flaws and weaknesses, which were previously known to but a few are now in the public domain. And when everyone becomes aware of your weak spots you need to remedy them as soon as possible, if you wish to pick yourself up. We'll need a new model and Italy will be at the forefront to get the job done, putting the economy and finance back in the service of the well-being of the European people.
Can China aim to present itself to the world as the winning power in the struggle against the virus?
China has acted swiftly and firmly to handle this crisis, but we need to acknowledge that it has been able to do so because of a social, political and economic system that sharply differs from the Western model. I don't think there will be any winners in this war, with the tens of thousands of victims there will only be losers.