Question (Q.): The Italian Embassy is known to represent NATO interests in the Republic of Belarus. It is via your embassy that contacts with the Alliance are maintained. In this regard we would like to get an idea of your vision of the prospects for the development of NATO-Belarus relations. Is a special Belarus-NATO agreement or charter possible in the context of NATO enlargement? How is information on NATO propagated in Belarus? Is it possible to set up a NATO Centre of Information and Documentation similar to the ones established in Moscow and Kyiv?
Answer (A.): The Italian Embassy has, for the time being, the role of NATO contact point in Belarus. But I would like to underline that contact point Embassies are first of all an instrument for the policy of information in third countries of the Atlantic Organisation. So I would not certainly say that Belarus maintains relations with Nato through the Italian Embassy. Belarus has its own official channel of communication for this purpose. For example, just recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus has participated in Brussels to a session of the Council of the Euro- Atlantic Partnership. So the future of the relations between Belarus and Nato and the possible conclusion of a special agreement between the two parts are dealt directly from Belarusian authorities. But of course the Italian Embassy in Minsk is quite willing to help to the positive development of these relations, which would represent a very important progress. Coming back to the role of the Italian Embassy as a contact point, we have organized some trips to Brussels of journalists and opinion makers, we send to public authorities and mass media publications and Information we receive from Brussels and we act as intermediaries for Nato cultural programmes, forwarding applications to Nato headquarters. But we are in close contact with Hate's Direction of information In order to further develop our activity in Belarus.
For your request to establish a Center of Information and Documentation like in Moscow and Kyiv, NATO authorities for financial reasons unfortunately are not ready for the moment to take into consideration the creation of other centers of this kind.
Q : Italian and British prime ministers came out with a proposal on 20 June 1999 to develop "convergence criteria" required to reform EU armies and military industries. Reportedly, the Anglo-Italian plan may be addressed and officially approved in December 1999 by the European Council. Could you go into details about this plan? What made Italy and the UK put forward the proposal?
A. : The necessity of strengthening the military and security identity of Europe has been for a long time one of the main concerns of European countries. But the gap existing in this field has become more and more evident in the last period. The initiative of Italy and Great Britain has been part of such a growing awareness, which finally have resulted in the recent decisions of the Helsinki European Council going in the direction to create the infrastructure necessary to give the European countries the capacity to conceive, planify and conduct military operation. That means that the European countries will be able In future to deploy 50-60,000 men in order to fulfil the so-called Petersberg missions. This with the purpose to arrive to an autonomous European capacity of conducting military operations when Nato will not be engaged in its totality. It must be clear that Europe wants to maintain a close coordination with Nato and this project is intended to streghten the Alliance general capacity of action, avoiding in any case useless duplications. In fact only enhancing its autonomous military capacities Europe will be able to give a greater contribution to the common necessities of defence.
Q. : What is the Italian position in the field of European security? What is your vision of the OSCE role in strengthening of stability and security on the European continent, particularly in the light of the adoption of the Charter on European Security at the Istanbul Summit?
A. : Italy welcomed the recent decisions of the Istanbul Summit, which resulted in a strengthening of the OSCE structure giving to the Organisation concrete operational capacities to fulfil actions of prevention and crisis management which have become a great part of
its mandate. In particular the approval of the Charter on European Security represents the conclusion of a long process started in Budapest in 1994 in order to give OSCE an up-to-date instrument in the field of prevention and crisis management. One the most important effect of the Charter is the approval of the Platform for Cooperative Security and other significant decisions are those concerning REACT, the future civil force of rapid intervention, and the recognition of the OSCE role in the field of peacekeeping, not excluding also the possibility of military operations.
So the Italian assessment of the Istanbul Summit is a very positive one because its decisions go further in the direction of strengthening the role of the OSCE as a regional organisation on the basis of the Article 8 of the Charter of the United Nations, reaffirming the value of the concept of global security for our continent.
Q. : What is your opinion on the development of Belarus-Italy relations? What could facilitate their progress?
A. : Relations between Italy and Belarus have seen some positive steps in the last year, but these steps remain very limited and slow in comparison with the very high potential which exists between our two countries in all fields. Of course Italian-Belarussian relations cannot be separated from the general relations between Belarus and the European Union. Only an improvement in these relations can contribute to significant positive developments between Rome and Minsk. Despite many difficulties and contradictory moves, we have been able to enregister encouraging indications in 1999. I am confident in the wisdom of the Belarusian authorities in order to continue in a more affirmative way in the policy to develop an open and democratic society according to the OSCE standards, in order to arrive first of all next autumn to free and fair parlamentary elections which could obtain international recognition. But important measures are also needed in the economic field and here also I see some positive but partial signs. The conference which took place in Minsk last November has clearly indicated that many persons in very important positions have a more and more clear outlook of what is necessary to do in order to Improve the economic situation and attract foreign investments. If such measures are taken, you can be sure that Italian businessmen will be among the first ready to respond in the most active way.