«Italy, a friendly country. Migrants, there are no national solutions»- Corriere.it
Minister Colonna, you and Minister Tajani were supposed to meet in Paris on May 4, but the visit was canceled after your colleague Gérald Darmanin criticized Giorgia Meloni and the Italian government. Now she is the one to come to Rome to finally meet Tajani. What did you say to each other about the bilateral relationship?
“The relationship with Minister Tajani is consolidated: we work well together,” he says Catherine Colonna, French Foreign Minister —. We both thought, since he was kind enough to invite me, that it would be a good idea to meet again in person to talk about many issues. I came to Rome in the spirit of the Quirinale Treaty, which we must keep alive, with the same zeal and positive spirit on both sides".
But in recent weeks, other voices in the French government have reiterated their criticisms. You, on the other hand, have never attacked Italy, and President Macron spoke in a relaxed tone with Prime Minister Meloni in Hiroshima. Are there two lines in Paris? One more political and one more institutional?
«My visit here is not only institutional, but concerns our common work. And on all the issues we have tried to make progress. France has only one line: Italy is a friendly country, to which many things bind us, including mutual affection. And when there are sensitive issues, we need to talk about them openly and in a friendly way. The two things go hand in hand and all the members of the French government, each with their own words, know that we will better face any difficulty with greater Franco-Italian cooperation, starting with the migration issue".
How will Italy and France work concretely to overcome the immigration difficulties together?
«Today most of the migratory pressure comes from Tunisia rather than Libya. We must increase our cooperation with Tunisia through the European channel, of course, and also through mutual bilateral relations with Tunisia, which we have an interest in coordinating well".
Do you agree with Mrs Meloni that we should help the Tunisian government immediately, without demanding preliminary reforms from Tunis, as the IMF and the United States are doing?
“We agree to explain to Tunisia's friendly government that an agreement with the IMF is in its interest. This does not mean that we do not have bilateral national aid programs for Tunisia that we can develop in parallel, but we will have to coordinate them better to have a greater impact. The supplementary solution is a yet to be reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which will not only allow access to finance, but, I believe, will also send a signal of confidence to investors and business partners.
Once the migrants arrive in Europe, how can Italian-French collaboration improve?
“We need to step up the fight against irregular trafficking in human beings at the borders between France and Italy and a reform of the Dublin system, as well as improve the Eurodac fingerprint database and asylum application procedures in countries of first entry. It's an eternal theme, but I want to be positive because we've made progress. We have a European Council in June and our shared ambition is to address it with a new step forward in the rapprochement of positions. We need to keep this calendar in mind and use it to move forward. There are no national solutions. The solution lies in cooperation between us."
As for Ukraine, do you think that Zelensky's tour, which began in Rome and ended in Hiroshima thanks to a French plane, allowed the international community to regroup before the counter-offensive?
“We still have a little way to go to convince some countries, but the fact that Zelensky met the leaders of the Arab League and other leaders at the G7 meeting in Hiroshima is important. All countries must understand that the war being fought on the European continent is not just a European war, but affects the whole world. If we do not guarantee respect for the principles of the United Nations, no one in the world will be safe".
Will France deliver planes to Ukraine and help train Ukrainian pilots?
“As President Macron said, there is no taboo on this. But we know that what Ukraine is looking for is F-16 planes, which France does not have. But pilots are also needed, and a distinction must be made between basic training and specific training for the F16 fighter. It is conceivable that we can contribute to basic training».
Speaking of China and Taiwan, President Macron has asked the European allies not to "follow" the United States. Rome is traditionally very close to Washington and Prime Minister Meloni confirms this Atlanticist choice. Is there a difference in sensitivity towards China?
“We are trying to preserve the capacity for dialogue with China, for example on climate, biodiversity or artificial intelligence. At the same time, we have differences with China on values, and also on the Indo-Pacific region. President Macron saw Prime Minister Meloni both in Reikiavik and in Hiroshima, and they agreed on reaching a balance. Then, on the Silk Road, it is up to the Italian government to decide».
But President Macron's statements on the plane returning from China have sparked controversy in Europe and the United States. Do you think that consensus at European level has now grown?
«The charm of France is to have ideas and to encourage debate. And often, not always but often, to make things progress».
Did you speak to Minister Tajani about President Mattarella's visit to Paris on 7 June on the occasion of the "Naples in Paris" exhibition at the Louvre"?
«Yes, the Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, will also be there. Then we wait for Prime Minister Meloni, who has expressed the desire to come before the summer, even if a date has not yet been set. We spoke of Emilia Romagna, reiterating our condolences; a French team is on site to help the relief efforts. We are doing everything possible to seek convergence between France and Italy, even on the most delicate issues. For example, we are delighted to have reached a global agreement with Italy and Germany, which paves the way for the creation of a section of the Unified Patent Court in Milan».
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May 25, 2023
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