ROME - Minister Luigi Di Maio, the United States have abandoned the Kurds, Turkey has started a war that foreshadows ethnic cleansing. You summoned the Turkish Ambassador for a meeting. What position is Italy taking?
“We strongly condemn all forms of military action since it risks jeopardising the efforts made by the anti-Daesh coalition. The Syrian crisis cannot be solved with weapons, but through dialogue and diplomacy. The Syrian people have already suffered enough”.
Europe gives money to Erdogan to stop the flow of migrants from Syria, and now Erdogan has started a war against those who put a stop to Islamic terrorism. How should the European Union react?
“We already raised concerns about agreements made in the past to block the flow of migrants in Turkey, but we weren’t in government. I will be in Luxembourg on Monday and will ask Europe to take a unified stance”.
The Turkish President has threatened to unleash millions of refugees if he meets interference.
“The EU cannot accept blackmail and I hope that no Member State gives in to it”.
Up until a few years ago, the U. S. was the enemy, you organised meetings with Cuba and Venezuela, you criticized the sanctions against Russia. Alessandro Di Battista still holds these views. Is he the heretic?
“Just before winning the elections in 2018, the position of the 5-Star Movement was set out very clearly: historical alliances were not up for discussion, the United States is our main ally, but we still consider Russia - as with other countries from the Eastern bloc - to be significant interlocutors on both a trading level and for stabilisation in crisis areas”.
The alliance with France is also historic, but you tried to make an agreement with the yellow vest movement before the European elections. You then “converted” and voted for Ursula von der Leyen. What changed from when you were in talks with Nigel Farage?
“In her keynote speech, Ursula von der Leyen touched on many important points: minimum salaries, migrants, the environment. We gave a conditional vote of confidence to her programme, but it is not limitless. I think it is necessary to put the strategic interests of the country before prejudice and conspiracies. Even at the risk of sacrificing agreement in the Movement”.
The attack in Halle shows how much damage the spread of messages of intolerance can cause. Do you think that the risks of extreme right propaganda have been underestimated?
“I would avoid exploiting this for political purposes. Very close attention should be paid to extremist movements of any nature. I firmly condemn what happened and reiterate the solidarity of myself and the government with the Jewish people”.
You managed to cut the number of members of parliament with the firm support of the Democratic Party (“PD”), Italia Viva and LeU. Do you still miss Matteo Salvini?
“I never missed Salvini, I always told the truth. 2019 was a really crazy year: two different types of governments and a crisis in the middle of August. There are two people who know how things went, and one of them is me. There was no conspiracy, they brought the government down themselves”.
This reduction in the number of members of parliament could harm the principle of representation. Wouldn’t it have been better to get together and approve the right set of checks and balances instead of rushing to stake your position?
“Whatever needs to be done will be done. On this issue, our exchange of views with the PD is calm, informed and responsible”.
What kind of electoral law is needed?
“We need to find majority agreement. There is no ideal model, and it serves no purpose for everyone to promote their own model at this stage”.
Would you also propose a binding mandate?
“I don’t want to force my hand. Of course, there is an issue regarding people getting elected with one party and then betraying the voters’ choice by changing jersey as if there were nothing to it. I propose sitting down with the PD to discuss the issue”.
The Constitution protects the freedom of members of parliament. What persuades you to believe that the PDs could change their minds?
“Regarding the fines in Umbria, they followed us for those who changed party”.
You met Zingaretti in great secret: do you realise that there aren’t any photos showing the two of you together?
“There are less summits with the Pds, and less photo opportunities, but we manage to get much more done. First the cut to the number of members of parliament, now the climate law”.
You have emptied it.
“I am sure that the parliamentary work will allow it to be filled up more”.
Will the agreement on the regional elections in Umbria be repeated? It could be a way for the 5-Star movement to manage something never managed before, win a region?
“There are no discussions in place with the PD regarding the other regions. Voting will take place in Umbria in 16 days’ time, and much will depend on what happens there. It will be an important event for the entire government, even the Prime Minister will go”.
You often said that you don’t trust Matteo Renzi. But you find yourselves on the same page with respect to VAT. Is Italia Viva a danger to the staying power of the government?
“I agree with the government and all the parliamentary representatives regarding VAT. It will not increase. Let me gloss over Renzi. Talk less and do more”.
Who talks too much?
“Firstly, I refer to myself and the Movement because I’ve already been through that. We will start working on a budget law on Monday in the Council of Ministers We could be tempted to throw tit-bits to the newspapers, but that method doesn’t lead to anything positive”.
The Prime Minister has to explain why he let Trump’s Attorney General talk to top intelligence officials without the parliamentary intelligence oversight body COPASIR being informed and without a political counterparty?
“Conte will explain. He has always been transparent, and he will also be in this case. If I remember properly, he went to the Senate for clarification on the Russian issue, even when it was up to Salvini to give an explanation”.
Could this story have influenced Trump’s decision to lean on “Giuseppi”?
“These inferences border on fiction”.
Your position on immigration mirrors Salvini’s position in the sense of the hard line taken. Do you still support your security decrees?
“They will change in accordance with the instructions from the President of the Republic, but the system is fair. However, there is a big difference between Salvini and I on this issue. He was a television performer, but I am quietly getting things done. And as you can see, you never heard me say that I had solved the problem when the safe return plan was presented. There will be a number of different steps. I work in association with the other ministers to find a multi-level solution. Of course, if there are NGOs who breach Minniti’s code, they will have to be stopped”.
The NGOs save lives at sea and it is being made increasingly difficult for them. No inquiry held against those who operate in the Mediterranean ever led to anything. On the contrary, the newspaper “Avvenire” revealed that the Italian authorities were talking to a Libyan trafficker. Doesn’t this worry you?
“Anyone who deals with traffickers worries me. The main goal is to stop human trafficking, provided that the problem is sorted out on site. I spoke with the other UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in New York. We also need strategic cooperation to guarantee the human rights of these people”.
Years ago, you signed the M5S law on ius culturae (law on granting Italian citizenship under certain conditions). If it is not on the agenda, it means that it will be shelved. Can’t security also be found with good integration?
“It is a question of priorities, there is already a law that governs citizenship in Italy. I believe that this has to be discussed at European level”.
Many countries such as France and Germany already have more advanced laws.
“Parliament is sovereign, but we don’t have a majority on this matter. There are different positions on it in the 5-star movement, and the same is true for the PDs”.
Are you worried about the discontent shown by some leading members of the 5-Star Movement such as Giulia Grillo and Barbara Lezzi?
“Everyone is free to express their own ideas. That has always been the way it has worked in the Movement.
I remember more than one expulsion that would indicate otherwise.
“One thing is to express your own idea, another is to pit yourself against decisions that have already been made along with the members, with methods that go against our ideals. I think that Giulia and Barbara should come to Italy, to the 5-Star Movement. It has always been an opportunity to exchange views, even if they are harsh. I don’t have to remind you what happens when political leaders are appointed”.
Fico refused to go on stage, so do you fear a split?
“The only split I saw was in the PD”.