An interview with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi

Romano Prodi comments on the agenda for the upcoming G8 summit, Italy’s policy on the situation in Iraq, the future of the European Union, and whether Russia could ever become a European Union member.

Italian Prime Minister Roman Prodi talks about the outlook for Italian-Russian relations.

Question: Which aspects of bilateral cooperation look most promising?

Romano Prodi: Russia is Italy’s leading supplier of energy resources. But now it’s time we went further, developing relations in the fields of politics, culture, and religion. We’re still too distant from each other as peoples, after all, and that situation can’t be fixed through the energy resources trade and investment alone.

Question: The G8 summit will take place in St. Petersburg in July. Which of the issues on the summit agenda do you consider most important?

Romano Prodi: This summit will be especially focused on energy issues – understandably enough, as it’s being held in Russia. Italy should certainly pay attention to this topic. All the same, every G8 summit involves one fundamental issue: how to approach the sweeping changes taking place worldwide. In recent years, G8 summits have discussed the problems of Africa – the tragedy of a continent that’s moving in the opposite direction from the development of other countries. The rest of the world is awakening, it’s changing, while only Africa is standing still. I expect some discussion of these issues.

Question: What is your view of the G8’s role in world politics today?

Romano Prodi: The importance of the G8 isn’t only the summit agenda as such, but also the opportunity to speak freely during those three days, looking each other in the eye. It’s a unique opportunity. For this reason, I believe that sooner or later the G8 should open up to new players on the world stage.

Question: I must mention the Iraq problem. How does your new government plan to build relations with the anti-terrorist coalition?

Romano Prodi: Our government’s policy program includes a promise to withdraw troops from Iraq. We have already started implementing that policy. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be any more lenient with regard to terrorism.

Question: You were the European Commission president from 1999. Your time in office covered the introduction of the euro and the eastward expansion of the European Union. How do you see the European Union’s future?

Romano Prodi: We’re going through a crisis. Many commentators paint a grim picture: Europe’s finished, Europe has no future. When my counterparts and I analyze what is happening around the world, we come to understand that our countries can’t handle this separately. With 1.3 billion Chinese, and hundreds of millions of Americans – Germany, France, or Italy can’t endure alone. And when we take this into account, we all realize that we do need Europe.

Question: How do you see EU-Russian relations? Do you consider it possible for Russia to join the EU?

Romano Prodi: Russia does play a very special role, of course. Could it become a European Union member? No, because that would immediately give the EU two capitals: one in Moscow, the other in Brussels. In other words, simply because Russia’s in a different weight category. But can we build our relationship with a view to complementing each other? Yes!

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