DI MAIO: «THE MAJORITY PARTIES WILL FIND AN AGREEMENT AND WE WON'T NEED FORZA ITALIA»
ROME - Luigi Di Maio understands why the electoral reform law proposal has created such a stir within the Democratic Party and the haste to adopt a proportional system before the referendum on reducing the number of MPs. Regarding the so-called "security decrees", however, the Foreign Minister uses an altogether different language: «The agreement must be respected, but politics is all about doing the right things at the right tome and the priority now is to stop departures».
Is the reform that you consider a quantum shift dangerous? According to the Democrats, if no corrections are introduced the risk is that reducing the number of MPS will damage the principle of parliamentary representation.
«The reform was approved by the entire Parliament, it's been twenty years in the making and finally transforms us into a normal country. Italy alone elected so many members of Parliament. This said, we have an agreement on electoral reform and we intend to stand by that agreement».
Are you sure? Because the agreement between yourself and the Democratic Secretary Zingaretti dates back to months ago and since then has been repeatedly deferred.
«I believe that, after reducing the number of MPs, we need a new electoral law. I understand the concerns expressed by the Democratic Party, the agreement was that the reform to cut the number of MPs would be accompanied by an electoral reform and changes to the rules of parliamentary procedure. I confide in the fact that we'll sort this all out among the majority parties».
And the timeline? By approving the new law before the referendum, at least in one house, as requested by the Democrats?
«That wouldn't be a problem for us».
And what if you need the votes of Forza Italia to approve the proportional system, seeing that Italia Viva is strongly opposed?
«I think there is still space for dialogue on the issue. I'm sure that the majority parties will be able to come to an agreement».
Or else, will it mean the end of the government?
«Of course not. We are a coalition and we make proposals. Of course, others are then free to vote for our proposal, but it must come from the majority first».
Is it true that there's been a rapprochement between you and Salvini?
«I haven't spoken to Salvini since the collapse of the previous government, which exposed him as untrustworthy».
And if the League Party were to change its leadership?
«I don't comment on the internal affairs of the League».
Do you think that a reshuffle is necessary to strengthen the majority?
«The majority is strong. Neither the Movement nor I want a reshuffle. We think the Government needs to get on with it and that speculation about a reshuffle in the middle of an economic crisis shows a lack of responsibility».
How would you consider the secretary of the Democratic Party entering the Government, as Interior Minister for example?
«He's already dismissed this speculation».
Returning to the still open issues within the majority, Italy had refinanced the agreement with the Libyan coastguard shortly before the three migrant minors were killed after being taken back. Don't you feel the weight of these events?
«Negotiations are under way to revise the 2017 Memorandum. Human rights are an absolute priority. we are confident that the Libyan authorities will collaborate to ensure a broader involvement of the Unhcr. We received important signals in this respect also during my recent trip to Tripoli».
Wouldn't it have been better to change those agreements before renewing them? Emma Bonino says that «The Libyan coastguard simply doesn't exist». There are only militias fighting each other, in the middle of a war.
«Those agreements were not signed by this Government. We are committed to changing them, while guaranteeing our national security. Clearly, we need to hear a stronger European voice on Libya and we need to put a stop to all external interference. Operation Irini aims to enforce the embargo and break down the wall of hypocrisy that surrounds the supply of arms by third countries».
And what's happening with Tunisia?
«The country is currently in a state of political and economic instability, also due to the lack of a government. We want to support the Tunisian people in this challenge. But it's a safe country and we have already declared that any Tunisians arriving in Italy will be repatriated. I have read the same declarations by President Saied and wish to thank him. I may even visit Tunis in the near future».
But how can Italy prevent the flows of people leaving these countries, without using repressive means?
«We will strive to strengthen the democratic Tunisian institutions. Fostering development in nearby countries that are currently experiencing difficulties is the only way we can stop the flow of so-called economic migrants. The focus should be on the departures, rather than the arrivals. The latter only fuel the propaganda of a few. We need to tackle the root cause and Italy must find the courage to do so by playing a more active role in the Mediterranean, also in terms of resources. We must find the courage to invest more in our foreign policy. We shouldn't forget our geostrategic interests in some countries, like Libya, and that there is competition - albeit healthy and loyal - with our partners».
Isn't it time to change the migrant reception model? To focus more on integration?
«I think we need to improve the system for health reasons, because of the recent emergency, because the numbers are changing. Regarding the tent camps, I agree with Minister Lamorgese when she says they must be a temporary solution. And I also agree with the decision to call in the military to supervise the camps, seeing we're still in the midst of a pandemic. We also need to strengthen the repatriation centres».
The large-scale facilities have been a total failure. The Sprar centres, instead, were more humane, integrated with the local communities. Do you intend to restore them?
«The community-based reception of migrants has always been our objective, but we need to be careful now about the message we send out because - I must repeat - the focus now is on stopping departures».
Do you still wish to change the "security decrees"? «The agreement approved by the majority must be respected. This said, there is another problem now and I would remind you that, in politics, we need to do the right thing at the right time. We must not underestimate the impact these news have on the African populations».
Do you mean that September isn't the right time yet?
«We have an agreement to change the decrees based on the observations received from the President of the Republic, and we will respect this agreement, but announcing this in the middle of summer will only create illusions for the migrants, who need to understand that no-one is thinking of reforming the rules governing citizenship or residence permits».
It's still not clear what happened in Beirut, except that it's a devastating event. Will Italy send aid?
«Two air force planes are ready to take off with eight tonnes of medical supplies and teams of firefighters coordinated by our Civil Protection. Men and materials will be made available for the reconstruction process, and we're also ready to do our bit in terms of cooperation».