Italy’s priorities as G7 chair and UN Security Council member
Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano interviewed by La Stampa.
Foreign policy has changed speed: whoever was accustomed to considering it as a slow process will have to come to terms with the new pace set by international issues.
From migrant flows to Libya and terrorism, Italy starts 2017 as a “protagonist”, sitting in the UN Security Council, chairing the G7 — which will lead to the Taormina summit in May — and as a member of the OSCE Troika (which it will lead in 2018).
The following is an interview to Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, published on the daily La Stampa.
What will Italy’s priorities be at the UN?
“We must focus attention on security and the great migration flows across the Mediterranean, the place in which the destiny of the world is being played out. And we must tackle the problem at its roots: it is the conflicts in Syria and Iraq that have originated the migration of millions of refugees. And then, as a cultural superpower, we must focus on protecting cultural heritage and combating the smuggling of works of art.”
Will the Mediterranean also be at the centre of the agenda of the G7 meeting in Taormina?
“Also in that case, I would like the focus to be on security in the Mediterranean and combating human trafficking: it is a global challenge and nobody should think that the migration issue has been solved with the agreement with Turkey.”
What are your feelings on the revolt in Cona?
“We act with rigour and humanity: we have saved many lives but we can no longer accept anybody breaking the rules. This is why we must step up expulsions and repatriations: I am at work to finalise agreements aimed at curbing arrivals by blocking departures.”
With what Countries?
“There is a key triangle of Countries: Niger, with which we are close to signing an agreement, Tunisia and Libya.”
From Libya, yesterday General Haftar blamed Italy for having taken sides with the wrong front: how would you respond to that?
“We never chose any one side: we support the government recognised by the UN and we help those who fight terror, including Haftar’s wounded troops. The relief flight that he blames us for not having sent was dispatched at the express request of the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Council who represents Eastern Libya. We are working at achieving an agreement that will include all the parties: we were the first to say that also Haftar must be assigned a role to play.”
Mr Minister, let’s move eastward: does Turkey risk becoming the primary target of ISIS?
“Turkey is there: large and lying between two continents. Between temptations and contradictions. We sympathise with its people and government. There is no possible alternative to expressing solidarity and encouragement in fighting terrorism. Turkey remains a staunch NATO ally and an indispensable partner for our security and for the prosperity of hundreds of our companies. I have spoken to the Turkish Foreign Minister again to convey our closeness and to assure him our support.”
And how can we remain calm in Italy?
“We live in a global system of terrorism that does not allow for national responses. The most appropriate way of guaranteeing security is to integrate Countries, an unstopping exchange of information between police and intelligence forces: but this can only happen if there is trust between Nations.”
Is there sufficient cooperation at European level?
“I’m still not satisfied with how things are going: much more can be done. The key word for terrorists is speed, the speed they used in organising attacks: we cannot say that Europe’s response has been equally speedy.”
Is this an issue to raise with Brussels?
“I know the timing of the Rule of Law, but here we are faced with the slowness, the stuttering of States that do not exchange information. We must relaunch the idea of a common defence system: the celebration of the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in March will not be a commemorative liturgy but the energetic relaunching of the European project.”
Prime Minister Gentiloni also spoke of improving relations with Russia…
“We were the first to say No to the automatic renewal of sanctions. I believe that, in the light of the recent albeit fragile truce in Syria, it would be a strategic error to do without the contribution of Russia in tackling security threats.”
Could Putin also be invited to the G7 meeting in Taormina?
“It’s too early to say. There are the sanctions in place and Moscow is being given recognition — generously by some and hesitantly by others — for what it did in achieving the ceasefire in Syria, which is an important step forward, even if it should be seen as arising from the philosophy of UN Resolution №2254.”
Donald Trump is about to be sworn in: what do you expect?
“Trump has won the vote of electors but there is still a lot of prejudice among his detractors. I think it would be superficial and ill-advised not to recognise that, at a time in which US-Russian relations are colder than ever, relaunching them could only be beneficial to the world.”