Minister Di Maio, do you share the views expressed by the M5S Member of Parliament Riccardo Ricciardi on the failings of the health system in Lombardy?
«I wish to stress that in the midst of a nationwide health emergency, and with a worrying economic crisis looming on the horizon, we need to pull together as a nation. This is not the moment for finger-pointing or presenting a divided front to the Italian people. My comment is not directed to Ricciardi specifically, but concerns everyone. In recent weeks, in fact,all parties have stepped up their political campaigning rhetoric».
Do you fear for social stability?
«Yes, there is a risk that the tensions we witnessed in Parliament might overflow into society at large. The task and duty of politics, at this time, is to safeguard the social stability of the country».
Does the government intend to re-think the role of the Regions, with the return to the centralisation of the health service?
«We can address any topic, but only once the emergency is over».
But don't you think that the Presidents of the Regions, albeit under an enormous amount of stress, acted too independently, creating a state of continuous conflict?
«What I think is that no-one can claim the right to cast judgment over the Presidents of the Regions. Together with the Mayors, they have been forced to face the brunt of the emergency, to see daily the suffering in the eyes of the people, so you will never hear me express any grievance towards them, because in a crisis of this scale we can all make mistakes».
Phase 2 of the emergency seems to be marked by chaos. The latest row concerns the exclusion of the "red zones" from the Government relief measures. We all understand that we are in the midst of an emergency, but can this justify such shambolic measures?
«There can be no preferential treatment or exclusions regarding the relief funds for the local authorities included in the "red zones". There can be no first or second class communities. The people of Ariano Irpino, or of other communes in the centre and south of the country have not suffered less. I confide in the fact that these issues will be suitably addressed and the measures amended at the right time».
As Foreign Minister, how do you intend to convince your counterparts in favour of tourism to Italy?
«It's not a matter of convincing others, but of the trend of contagion in the country. The figures are encouraging and I address the matter on a daily basis with my counterparts. I have intense and cordial relations with Mr. Maas and Italy has already achieved the result of scrapping all ideas of bilateral initiatives and potential tourist corridors in Europe. This was the first step we needed to take».
Good, and now the second step is?
«To encourage German citizens, first and foremost, to choose Italy for their holidays. This is important for our hospitality industry and our entire economy and I am working with Minister Franceschini to make this happen. If necessary, after 3 June, I will travel to Germany, Slovenia and Austria to discuss the matter directly with my counterparts there. On 4 June I will be welcoming Mr. Le Drian in Rome, an opportunity to show the actual state of health of our Country».
And your opinion on the corridors proposed by Austria?
«Talk of corridors violates the very spirit of the EU, as confirmed by Germany which supports our position, which we clearly stated at the latest summit. Germany has given us guarantees in this respect. I wish to stress that selfishness is a dead end for Europe».
What is your opinion concerning the request by the US to open an investigation into the origin of the virus without the WHO, for anti-China purposes. On whose side is Italy?
«Since the beginning of this crisis Italy has adopted a principle of transparency. We have been consistently transparent and demand that our partners act likewise. Regarding the origins of the virus, of course we need to shed light on the matter, also to pre-empt any future mistakes».
«My opinion is that picking fights at the moment is of no use. The world must unite to defeat this virus. And I believe that the best course of action is always to trust in science, which doesn't mean that we do not take the concerns expressed by Washington, our major ally, seriously. Italy, together with the EU, supports the idea of an independent investigation into the matter, with the support of the WHO».
Prime Minister Conte has let slip the idea that the ESM could be a "possibility" for Italy. Are you prepared to insist in your opposition at the cost of endangering the Government, or will you eventually fall into line with the Prime Minister?
«In actual fact, I have heard the Prime Minister express a contrary opinion many times and I, and the party I represent, have trust in his words. In any case, it is still on open matter. We have made a number of important steps forward, although, to date, there are still no certainties regarding the Recovery Fund, which is our main focus».
Has a new diplomacy developed around the coronavirus?
«I wish to take this opportunity to thank the entire diplomatic corps for its great work. I have received many touching demonstrations of closeness from abroad. In fact, we are looking to establish an Italian Day of Thanksgiving to mark, from now onwards, the aid and support we have received from many friendly countries at one of the most difficult times in our entire history».
The motions against Minister Bonafede have been rejected by Parliament, but Mr. Renzi continues to warn that the destiny of the Government is in his hands. Do you realistically believe that the Government can weather it out until 2023 in these conditions?
«The Government is solid and to even think of contributing to its collapse at such a time is madness. Not even a reshuffle, which I have also heard talk of, is an option. What we need to do now is respond to the Country's needs».
Yes, but after Conte, is an election the only viable option or would it be Parliament to decide?
«Italy is the only country in which there is talk about the possibility of the Government collapsing and I find it absurd. Regarding constitutional prerogative, this is not a matter for opinion, the path is clearly laid out and there can be no automatic conclusions».
What do you think when you hear the name Draghi?
«I think of an authoritative person whose name should not be bandied about for political controversy».
The stability of your M5S movement is also a problem. In this regard, you have resigned as party leader but never really left the position. Can the M5S movement really do without Di Maio?
«On the contrary, I think the M5S is showing great cohesion and unity. Of course, there are discussions on the various issues, but that is only natural. Crimi is doing an excellent job and, personally, I believe that we should all do our best to help the Movement grow and strengthen our governance skills. This is what we should be focusing on. The best way to do this is from within the Government. Protest is not enough, at the core of our political actions is the need to achieve results».
Why has Rousseau disappeared from your political debate? Is it time to re-think the platform's role?
«These are just behind-the-scenes conjectures by journalists. The platform has always provided an enormous contribution and continues to do so».
And what about a second term of Virgina Raggi as Mayor of Rome?
«l intend to meet Virginia soon».
Why not admit that your Movement is looking to reconsider the rule against more than two terms in office. If you didn't, the current M5S establishment would be wiped out, you included.
«I never admit to "ifs". We have 3 years of government ahead of us, this is what we need to focus on».