Italy believes the euro zone countries could have done more for Greece.
Its foreign minister insists that only fast, coordinated and formulated action can ensure efficient control of a financial crisis on the scale that Athens is facing.
Italy is also calling on the EU to improve joint efforts against illegal immigration, patrolling the bloc’s external borders.
Euronews interviewed Franco Frattini in Paris.
Claudio Rosmino, Euronews:
“Foreign Minister, speaking about the European rescue plan for the Greek economy you said: “It will be a confidence test for maintaining the European system.” We haven’t heard any declarations of intent from Brussels. Does that show a lack of cohesion among the Europeans or a wariness about the true state of the Greek economy?”
Franco Frattini, Italian Foreign Minister:
“The heads of state and government promised help, but were not able to come up with concrete proposals. We know that the European Commission has asked the Greeks for information about the reports in the international press on the assistance Greece is said to have received in making their accounts look better than they really were. We accept that Prime Minister Papandreou acted correctly, but I think that we could have done more. However, there are criteria for making decisions and if there is not a consensus you can’t reach a decision. So I want to stress that to be credible as a country in the euro area, we have to be able to intervene when a member state gets into difficulty.”
“Last summer thousands of illegal immigrants tried to enter Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece. What is the Italian government planning to do in the long term to control illegal immigration? “
“This is a European problem, not an Italian, Greek or Maltese problem. Illegal immigrants arrive in Sicily, and, as there are no longer internal borders, they move on quickly to Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. So it’s really a problem for everyone. We want to see the European Border Agency – FRONTEX – strengthened, that more countries take part in the patrols in the Mediterranean and that we have the same rules in the 27 EU countries for asylum for refugees, governing whether they’re allowed to stay or if they’re expelled… Italy, for its part has done a great deal to block the wave of illegal immigrants, we have an agreement with Libya which enabled us to reduce by 90% in one year arrivals on the coast of Sicily, but it is not enough… By protecting Sicily we protect all of Europe.”
“You were European Commissioner for Justice; based on that experience, what do you think about the latest line-up of commissioners and what does Italy expect from the Barroso 2 team?”
“I believe the Barroso Commission put in place a good team for this second Barroso mandate. Certainly we expect a lot on immigration. And as well as on immigration, also on energy security and the internal market. We want Europe to be an international player. Catherine Ashton (the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs) has a major challenge ahead of her. To be the successor to Javier Solana and the Foreign Relations Commissioner means mastering two crucial roles. I support her as someone who is qualified and ready. But now, obviously, we want to see results.”
“Minister, Iran has quit the negotiating table and pressed on with its uranium enrichment programme; criticism by the west was followed by protest demonstrations outside European embassies, included Italy’s. Is there any possibility of dialogue in the future?”
“I believe that the ball is in Iran’s court, and not in ours. We have put forward an offer which says very simply: Iran can enrich its uranium for civilian nuclear power plants, but that must be done outside Iranian territory and be completely transparent. Iran risks losing the chance to negotiate. The only way of applying pressure is to use international sanctions. That’s not to make war on Iran, but to prevent a war with Iran.”
“But do you think it’s possible for the UN Security Council to reach agreement?”
“Yes, if China understands how dangerous it is for Teheran to have a nuclear bomb – dangerous even for China – then China, with its pragmatism gained over a thousand years, can perhaps choose to abstain or vote no, but why should it encourage an Iranian nuclear arms race?”
“A huge military operation has recently been launched against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Can that country be stabilised by force, or rather by opening the door to political dialogue with the Taliban, as President Karzai has suggested?”
“We decided, in London, a few weeks ago, that it must be a political strategy. We must put control of the country in the hands of the Afghan government, we don’t want to stay there as an occupying army. This is about the need for security so the Afghan government can govern rather than about fighting a war against the Taliban. There are groups of Taliban who can not be rehabilitated: that is those who are closely associated with terrorism, the Al-Qaeda insurgents, those who live for violence; but there are those who joined the Taliban perhaps because they have no work, because they were desperate, but who have nothing to do with the terrorists. And these are the ones we must try to reintegrate.”
“Finally, Italy is often strongly criticised, and mocked, by the international media. As Italy’s top diplomat, what’s your explanation for this attitude?”
“I very often see Italy portrayed in a way that bears no resemblance to the real Italy. So, I wonder if it’s down to a lack of knowledge. Maybe. Or does this come from a spirit of international competitiveness which leads to the running down of a country. On top of that, Italians often bad-mouth their country when speaking to foreigners. It is a weakness which we should cure ourselves of.”
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