In an exclusive interview with valdaiclub.com, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini discusses the decline of European unity, the policy of sanctions, and the crisis in Venezuela.
“Something is rotten” in Europe
The situation within the European Union is very bad, and there are various factors of crisis.
First, given the situation in London, there are difficulties with the agreement on Brexit. We all know what is happening in the British Parliament, and about the problems of Mrs. May. She demands to renegotiate the agreement, while the European Commission says that is not possible. Henceforth, there is a real possibility to have a no-deal solution for Brexit, and this could have a serious impact on both the UK and the rest of Europe.
The second factor of crisis is the tensions between the European Union’s “founding fathers” group of countries – primarily, between Italy and France. That is the decision of France to withdraw from consultations following the imprudent decision of Mr. Di Mayo to meet in Paris with the leaders of violent protests who were devastating the city and attacking the French Republic.
France has also been making a lot of mistakes vis-à-vis Italy. Deputy Prime Minister Salvini is right: during the worst moments of the migratory crisis, France did not help Italy. It decided to close the ports of Marseille and said that it does not want to take any migrants or refugees, while we were under a heavy pressure. France has to make what we used to call “mea culpa”.
The last factor is the divisions we have on many issues of international and security policy – particularly, on the sanctions against Russia. Many countries in Europe profoundly support the sanctions-based policy, while Italy, Austria, Greece, and maybe Hungary, consider them completely negative, which causes a division. There is also a division on energy security, because for Italy or Germany it is not a problem having a trans-European pipeline coming from Russia, like Nord Stream-2. Other countries, like Poland, are furiously against it. Because of all these reasons, European Union is passing through harsh times. Moreover, due to the European elections coming, tensions and frictions accentuate.
The logic behind Italy’s moves
The Italian government is right that Europe has to protect, to promote, to help, not simply to dictate bureaucratic rules. But what we see is mutual distrust on migration management, since Italy was deeply affected by the refugee crisis and abandoned to face the crisis on its own. Other Europe countries said, “OK, that is not my problem”. That was a terrible violation of the basic principles of solidarity written in the treaties.
So the government of Italy and Mr. Salvini were obliged to close the ports in order to find a solution. Otherwise, solution would not have been found, as it was in the past. Then, everyone said, “OK, Italy is right, but it is not in my backyard, I do not want to take any migrants, any refugees, although I recognize that Italy is right”, – but we do not need words, we need concrete actions.
One must be sure that Italy will never leave Europe or Eurozone. However, we want to change the system, because the system is not democratic and still not yet political-oriented, and we do not have a leadership.
Fixing the joints in
While the European Parliament election campaign is on the run, it is very difficult to get any concrete results. Until the end of May, it is difficult to envisage results like cancelling or lifting the sanctions, or restoring the policy of sharing the burden of taking refugees. For the elections, all domestic political problems are an obstacle.
Political crisis in Venezuela
With regard to Venezuela, Italy’s point of view is similar to the one expressed by Russia. But my personal opinion is that it is impossible to go ahead with President Maduro in office. And Russia could be the best force to negotiate on the new presidential and new parliamentary elections, since Russia has historical, political, and economical influence on Caracas. As it was in the Middle East – in Syria, Libya, and Egypt, Russia could play a key role as a global player.