Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Italy's foreign minister, has re-affirmed his government's pro-EU orientation, saying in an exclusive interview with EurActiv Italy that "the single currency is irreversible". The former ambassador to Washington also pledged to work closely with the US on policy towards the Middle East and Islamist terrorism.
Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata is Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs in Mario Monti's government, which has been in office since November 2011. Terzi is a career diplomat and has previously served as permanent representative to the United Nations and ambassador to the United States. He spoke with EurActiv Italy's Alessandra Flora.
What is the role and what are the concerns of Italy and Europe in the face of tensions between Iran and the United States?
An Iran armed with atomic weapons would represent a grave threat for the entire world, not only for the United States. We therefore completely share the American concerns and we continue to collaborate with our other partners of the international community to prevent Tehran from passing the 'threshold'.
Italy gives its support to the sanctions put in place in this area by NATO and Europe, designed to bring Tehran back to a cooperative attitude, which is in the first place in its own interest.
What is Italy's position regarding the Assad regime's repression of the protests of the Syrian people?
Italy, as we have stated many times, harshly condemns the Syrian regime. We are worried by what is happening in this country and we want the immediate end of violence. We support the initiatives adopted by the Arab League and the sanctions decided together with our European partners.
The nomination of Prime Minister Mario Monti was welcomed by European leaders. Will the government succeed in giving greater credibility and prestige to Italy at the European level?
The role of a government is to work towards the success of its country: We are working responsibly and confidently. Italy is one of the founders of the great European project and no one can doubt our Europeanist traditions and the importance we give to community cooperation.
Today more than ever, we are convinced that our destiny is in Europe and – as I have said several times – we are sure that a Europe without Italy cannot exist. All member countries of the European Union, except the United Kingdom, agree on the need for a new treaty to make budgetary discipline more rigorous with the objective of creating greater economic integration and saving the single currency.
Now attention is focusing on the details and on the process of ratification which each country faces.
What is your evaluation of this delicate phase which the EU faces, which coincides with the Danish presidency?
The single currency is irreversible and I think that all countries of the eurozone are convinced of this. However – and this happens with all achievements – the euro, too, must be defended, by using all instruments useful to this goal.
It is undeniable that the current crisis, which began outside of Europe, has subjected the Union to strong pressure, provoking worries and accelerating thinking on possible reforms of the current treaties.
The response of member countries was quick and the 8-9 December summit in Brussels has opened the revision process on which, however, we will have to work a great deal.
Economic and domestic affairs appear to worry President Obama and in 2011 he ended the American military engagement in Iraq, which had become too costly and unpopular. What are the challenges Obama faces in the presidential elections?
I don't think that wars are decided on the basis of their costs, nor that they are fought for their degree of popularity. The objectives of the military operations in Iraq, especially the fall of a regime which brutally suppressed its people and which was a threat to international security, have been accomplished.
I am sure that the United States will continue to be engaged to stabilise democracy in this country, but one has to say that a historic phase in Iraq has ended and another has begun.
Concerning domestic affairs, the political debate during the electoral campaign – this is as true of the United States as for other countries which will elect governments in 2012 – will be dependent on the economy.
What do you think of the increase in violence in Iraq after the withdrawal of the last American troops?
The departure of American soldiers from Iraq marks a very delicate phase for the future of this country. The violence of the last weeks represents a deplorable attempt to prevent the establishment of democracy and peace. The international community will not abandon Iraq and we will all engage ourselves to support the people of Iraq and its legitimate institutions.
The recent terrorist attacks in Nigeria reveal ties between the Boko Haram religious group and al-Qaeda. In your opinion will there be an increase in Islamist terrorism?
International terrorism has proven to be one of the most painful wounds of the 21st century and, because of its nature, it is a phenomenon that is difficult to predict. The killing of [Osama] bin Laden has been a hard blow for al-Qaeda, an important but not definitive victory.
We cannot lower our guard because reality shows us that other groups are organising themselves, fomenting hate and violence.
In the struggle against this phenomenon it is of the utmost importance to prevent the consolidation of international networks, of 'terror alliances' between different groups. The only path to be taken is that of the cohesion of the international community.