Italian defense minister Roberta Pinotti said Thursday last week that the data showing a drop in migrant arrivals in Italy during the months of July and August are ''very comforting'' and that they show that ''the strategy was right and must be continued''.
Italy's involvement in Libya is directed towards this end, she noted, while ''we are speaking to Niger and Chad about possible military collaboration''. She was speaking in Taranto as part of the ceremony for Italy's handover of command of the EU naval mission EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia to Spain. Admiral Enrico Credentino, an Italian, will remain at the helm of the mission.
'Greater sharing and solidarity'
The changeover from Italy to Spain - underscored Minister Pinotti, in Taranto on Thursday with her Spanish counterpart, Maria Dolores de Cospedal Garcia - represented ''an important step because Italy has been involved since the very beginning but it is only right that there be greater sharing and solidarity''.
Operation Sophia was launched on June 22, 2015 and extended by the EU until December 31, 2018. Thus far, it has rescued about 39,000 migrants, arrested 117 suspected human traffickers and 477 vessels have been ''neutralized'' (taken out of the hands of criminal organizations).
Pinotti noted that the EU mission ''also trains the Libyan coastguard and that this is connected with what Italy is doing through a bilateral mission, helping Libya with its naval vessels. We believe that it is important to support this, which Libya sees as necessary'', pointing out, though, that ''it is absolutely not a mission that should infringe on Libyan sovereignty''.
'Possible military collaboration'
She went on to say that Italy was pleased with the fact that its strategy regarding Libya and the management of ''clandestine emigration'' was supported in Paris by Germany, France and Spain. ''It is from this standpoint that we are engaging in dialogue with Germany and France as concerns the possibility of cooperation with and support to Niger and Chad as well,'' she added, saying that Italy is talking to the two African countries ''on the basis of possible military collaboration. We are talking about training and border control''.
Thus far, though ''no missions have been planned. If these possibilities were to become more solid,'' the minister said, ''we would discuss it in Parliament''. As concerns Libya, Italy is very willing to help restore security management in the country.