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BERLUSCONI Y SU SALUD

Cable sobre las primeras grietas en el Gobierno italiano

La encargada de negocios informa en 2010, ante la visita a Washington del ministro de Exteriores italiano, sobre que algunos de los aliados de Berlusconi han empezado a criticarle abiertamente o maniobran para asegurarse su futuro

ID: 243419
Date: 2010-01-13 14:42:00
Origin: 10ROME49
Source: Embassy Rome
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:
Destination: VZCZCXRO6941
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHRO #0049/01 0131442
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131442Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3120
INFO RUCNMEU/EU INTEREST COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ROME 000049

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, IT
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR FOREIGN MINISTER FRATTINI'S VISIT
TO WASHINGTON

Classified By: DCM Elizabeth L. Dibble, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Foreign Minister Frattini's visit to Washington is an
opportunity to reinforce Italy's commitment to Afghanistan,
and stress the need for close coordination on Iran: you will
want to thank Italy for its early announcement of additional
troop contributions for Afghanistan, and deliver a firm
message regarding Italian cooperation on Iran sanctions. The
Berlusconi government aims to use this visit to highlight
close US-Italian consultation on key issues, and to
demonstrate that it is one of the allies that "matter." This
is crucial to a government still somewhat uncertain of its
stature with the Obama administration.

2. (C) Frattini's tenure as Foreign Minister has been
characterized by a desire for closeness with the US and
support for the priorities of PM Berlusconi, with a focus on
human rights at time conflicting and competing with a policy
of "commercial diplomacy" and a hard line on immigration
issues. Frattini hews closely to Berlusconi's support for
Israel in the context of the Middle East Peace Process, and
the GOI has stood with the US in opposing referral of the
Goldstone Report to the UNSC or the ICC, and in advocating
for more helpful EU statements more broadly. Frattini has
also pushed Turkish accession to the European Union.


3. (C) Frattini last visited Washington in May, 2009.


Domestic Context
----------------

4. (C) Frattini visits Washington at a time of flux in
Italian politics. Although Prime Minister Berlusconi remains
personally popular, and his government enjoys a wide margin
in Parliament, some of Berlusconi,s erstwhile allies have
begun to criticize him openly or look beyond him as they
maneuver to secure their own political futures. Berlusconi
faces no credible opponent within the center right or in the
opposition, but his allies and confidantes tell us that he is
increasingly irritated by ongoing
personal and legal issues, as well as by political attacks by
former allies, first and foremost President of the Chamber of
Deputies Gianfranco Fini. (See Ref Rome 01381)

5. (C) A former judge and a technocrat by nature, Frattini
is a strong Berlusconi loyalist--consistently espousing and
defending the PM's positions, unlike other cabinet ministers,
even on issues wholly unrelated to foreign policy. He enjoys
a strong international reputation, as well as a good measure
of respect from the opposition left. Although he does not
command a political base, Frattini's political
survival is probably no longer dependent on Berlusconi, given
the the good opinion in which the Italian public and
political class hold him. Amidst the at-times vicious
maneuvering and political backstabbing in Rome this fall,
Frattini has managed to remain above the fray.

Key Advocate for Robust Italian Participation in ISAF and
UNIFIL
--------------------------

6. (C) Frattini has consistently pushed within GOI circles to
respond positively to U.S. requests for more support in
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon, and has played a critical
role within the GOI in pushing for robust continued Italian
participation in military missions abroad, particularly ISAF
and UNIFIL. He was key to the GOI decision to announce
Italy,s 1,000 troop contribution to ISAF well ahead of the
NATO Foreign Ministerial and President Obama's December 1
speech, a risky political move designed to demonstrate
Italy's credentials as a staunch U.S. ally, and to ensure
domestic political support for the measure. Italian troop
levels will increase to an average of 3,700 in summer 2010,
with an overall ceiling of 4,000. Italy previously pledged
200 Carabinieri police trainers to Afghanistan, 60 of which
are on the ground now; the remainder should deploy in the
coming months.

7. (C) Despite substantial domestic budgetary and political
pressure to halve the 2,300-strong Italian troop contingent
in Lebanon when Italy hands the UNIFIL command to Spain in
February 2010, Frattini actively supported our request to
keep Italian troop levels high, so that Italy will likely
retain around 2,000 troops there. Frattini has also
protected Italy,s modest development aid contributions to
Afghanistan and Pakistan from budget cuts that have gutted
other Italian aid programs: Italy contributes about Euro 50
million to Afghanistan per year and has approved over Euro 60
million in aid to Pakistan in 2009. Some of that aid is

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being held up by the Zardari government,s failure to sign an
MOU with Italy governing disbursement.


Iran: Italy needs to be fully on board
---------------------------

8. (C) On sanctions, throughout all levels of the
policy-making apparatus, GOI officials have professed strong
allegiance to President Obama's two-track approach; since PM
Berlusconi's meeting with President Obama in June, GOI
officials have insisted that the word has been passed clearly
to Italian companies that no new projects should be initiated
in Iran. As recently as December 30, Undersecretary Gianni
Letta, PM Berlusconi's right-hand man, assured Amb. Thorne he
would personally press Eni CEO Scaroni to halt any ongoing
activities. On January 12, FM Frattini published an
editorial in which he wrote that if UNSC sanction don't work
"we must be ready to consider sanctions adopted by a more
restricted group of countries, the so-called 'like-minded'
group. . ." Though Italy is among Iran's main economic
partners, he continued, "we believe that physical security
and responsibility to our allies and to the entire world come
before other considerations," and "our firms with interests
in Iran have shown a great sense of responsibility."

9. (C) Yet while the GOI claims that it has been successful
in applying "moral suasion" to Italian companies, these
efforts have at times appeared to be half-hearted, and the
results are certainly uneven. Major Italian energy firms Eni
and Edison have only offered to hold off
new expansion plans in Iran temporarily. Eni has repeatedly
told U.S. officials that it will not undertake "new"
projects while in fact it is expanding oil production
operations in Iran under existing (i.e., "not new")
contracts. It would be helpful to reiterate to Minister
Frattini our strong concerns about the continuation of
business as usual in Iran by Italian companies, and in
particular the expansion of any activity by Italian energy
companies, notably Eni.

10. (C/NF) The GOI often claims that Italy has a major
economic relationship with Iran which makes the economic pain
of sanctions difficult to bear for Italian companies. In
reality, Iran ranks 24th among Italy's trading partners,
representing a mere 0.5 percent of its total exports; even
Italian energy imports from Iran are relatively low and
fungible (about 5 percent of total oil imports). While we
see Iran as not particularly significant in economic terms
for Italy, the reverse is not true, however. In 2007, Italy
was Iran,s fifth largest export destination, and Iran,s
sixth largest import source -- Italy supplied Iran with about
4 percent of its imports, and purchased approximately 5.7
percent of Iranian exports. Thus any vulnerability on the
restriction of trade appears to be more on the Iranian
side; the fear of undertaking measures that really bite in
Iran likely stems more from Italian fear of political
retaliation by Iran against future commercial opportunities,
than of a substantial economic price to be borne by Italian
companies now.

11. (C) The Italians are neuralgic on the issue of the P5 1,
a grouping they feel cuts them out of the
decision-making process on issues of direct import to their
commercial opportunities, and they have advocated for a
"like-minded" states mechanism in order to have a seat of
some kind at the
table. Italian officials reacted with alarm to word of
possible inclusion of Eni and Irasco on the Iran Sanctions
Act list, with MFA Secretary General Massolo telling A/S
Gordon in November that Eni would "do anything" to avoid
inclusion. Frattini has been an outspoken advocate for human
rights in Iran in the aftermath of the June elections, and
has repeatedly criticized the regime for its harsh measures
against demonstrators and opposition activists.


Russia
------

12. (C) PM Berlusconi's close personal ties with Vladimir
Putin and the very strong corporate ties between Italian
energy parastatal Eni and Russia's Gazprom often put Italy at
odds with U.S. and EU energy security efforts. Italy's
energy policy too often reflects Russian, rather than
European, priorities. For example, the GOI is ambivalent
about supporting the EU's Nabucco Caspian pipeline, while
Eni is poised to help Gazprom construct Black Sea and Baltic
Sea pipelines that will only deepen EU dependence on Russia.
Eni often appears to dictate GOI energy policy and uses its
influence to hinder EU energy market liberalization plans.

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However, Italy is taking some steps in the right direction by
supporting energy projects that will diversify its own energy
sources.

13. (C/NF) It would be helpful to remind Minister Frattini of
long-standing USG concerns about European dependence on
Russia or any other single energy supplier, emphasizing that
Italian help in increasing the flow of Russian gas around
Ukraine is not the same as a policy of seeking diversity of
energy sources, routes and technologies.

14. (C) Ever loyal, FM Frattini has been a vocal supporter
of strengthening political and security ties with Russia and
has also publicly defended PM Berlusconi,s friendship with
PM Putin from media criticism, such as when Berlusconi
abruptly left Rome during Jordan,s King Abdullah recent
state visit for a "private visit" to Russia to celebrate
Putin's birthday at the latter's dacha.

15. (C) We understand that the GOI has not yet begun to
assess the draft Russia EU security treaty in detail. FM
Frattini has been careful in his public remarks, however, to
underline that any new treaty cannot supplant existing NATO
and OSCE structures. Frattini and Russian FM Lavrov recently
published a joint editorial in centrist influential daily La
Stampa calling for "a new world order" based on
interdependence and cooperation between the EU and Russia, as
well as reinforced and expanded U.S.-EU-Russia relations
within the framework of existing organizations and
agreements. In the context of the December 3 Italy-Russia
Summit in Rome, Frattini noted it was a mistake to say
Russian-Italian or
Russian-EU relations were based chiefly on energy interests,
and stressed that Russia is an indispensable partner for
European stability and security. Frattini also lauded
President Obama,s 'reset" of U.S.-Russian relations as a
window of opportunity which Italy strongly supports.


Belarus
-------

16. (C) Amid questioning over the appropriateness of
Berlusconi,s November visit to Belarus, Frattini
characterized it as a "visit by a head of government that
blazed the trail for the others." Frattini,s consistently
positive statements on Belarus contrast with his EU
colleagues, (and the U.S.,) deep concerns about President
Lukashenko,s suppression of political opposition and other
human rights abuses. In September 2009, Frattini was the
first European government minister to visit Belarus since
1994. His advisors noted to us at the time that he was
undertaking the trip in the context of and in line with the
EU's evolving policy toward Belarus. During the trip,
Frattini underscored Italy,s great interest in strong
economic relations with Belarus and hinted at deals major
Italian concerns would be closing
with Belarus. Frattini also advocated that Belarus move
closer to European institutions and came out in favor of
lifting the EU visa freeze (suspended, although not
terminated, since 2008) for senior Belarusian officials,
including Lukashenko. (In November, the EU recommended to
extend the sanctions and their suspension.)

Italian Nuclear Energy Project
------------------------------

17. (C/NF) The GOI is pursuing plans to build up to ten
nuclear power plants in Italy. Heavy French lobbying led to a
political deal for an Italian electricity parastatal ENEL
joint venture with France,s EdF to build four nuclear plants
with French technology. The lack of a fair and open bidding
process for this deal and continuing French lobbying has
placed U.S.-based companies at a disadvantage in entering the
Italian nuclear energy market. A word to Minister Frattini
that we expect U.S. companies to be given
a level-playing field to compete is critical if they are to
have a fair chance to bid for Italian nuclear energy
projects.


Yemen
-----

18. (C) Following the foiled Christmas attack in Detroit and
the closure of the U.S. and UK Embassies in Sana'a, Frattini
forcefully called for EU coordination (based on the
anti-terrorism strategy adopted by the EU in 2005) in
combating terrorism and encouraged the EU High Representative
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton to
move Yemen to the front of the EU foreign policy agenda for

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its January meeting.

19. (C) Frattini strongly supports tight collaboration with
the U.S. and all democratic countries in combating terrorism
and its causes. Frattini also believes stronger coordination
with Arab countries is absolutely necessary and that while
Europe has a role, Arab leaders must be in the forefront in
fighting terrorism. Frattini recently commented in the press
that Saudi FM al-Faisal and Arab League SecGen Amre Moussa
share his view that in combatting terrorism, a strong focus
must be placed on preventing terrorist groups from forming in
the first place. In the case of Yemen, he said, this means
advancing national
reconciliation, involving the ROYG in anti-terrorism efforts
and providing increased anti-terrorism support.

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