Senator Aldo DI BIAGIO Q&A on eritreaeritrea.com •|• 12 Sept, 2020 •|• Scuola Italiana Di Asmara •|• International school in Asmara, Eritrea Qns. Senator in recent days a growing controversy has developed over the closure of the Italian Schools of Asmara characterized by unclear and sometimes contradictory positions. Can you take stock of the situation?
Ans. I have followed this serious problem with interest and attention, witnessing the transformation of a banal misunderstanding into a state affair. Too many voices very often unqualified have generated confusion in public opinion without however being able to clarify the exact dynamics of the events.
First of all, I consider it appropriate to highlight the difference between the terms such as "closure" and "withdrawal of the license" by explaining that the Italian authorities have "closed" the schools on their own initiative and without prior agreement with their Eritrean counterparts, while the Eritrean authorities, having acknowledged this initiative, they reacted by “withdrawing the license”.
Therefore it is not correct to say that the Eritrean authorities have closed the Italian schools in Asmara, but at most they have limited themselves to reacting accordingly.
Having said this, it does not mean that the problem is limited to this since on the contrary it has its roots many years ago and is part of a wider inattentive attitude shown by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its relations with Africa in general and with the 'Eritrea in particular.
Qns. What is it about exactly Senator?
Ans. For many years geo-political reasons have prompted Italy to prefer Ethiopian wire choices rather than cultivating diplomatic relations with Eritrea with which we share deep historical and this attitude has also affected the management of Italian schools that have often found themselves on the verge of closure due to our non-compliance.
The last case dates back to 2012, when with the signing of a bilateral technical agreement it seemed that a long series of misunderstandings had been resolved and a new path of collaboration and community of intent could be started.
However, even that document has remained a dead letter and it is only thanks to the goodwill of the Eritrean authorities that it has reached the present day by overcoming many organizational difficulties.
In 2016, during a visit to Eritrea, I personally went to check the state of the management of Italian schools as well as a courtesy visit to our diplomatic headquarters.
The impression I got convinced me that no progress had been made in the management of school activities and that the situation was such that negative consequences were to be expected, and I wrote everything in a detailed report which I presented on my return to the competent supervisory bodies.
Qns. Do you think there is still room for negotiation to prevent the definitive closure of the Italian schools in Asmara?
Ans. I believe that the real extent of the problem that has arisen over time with the Eritrean government is unclear to most people. Italian schools are just the last piece that has highlighted a diplomatic problem in all its gravity that must now be tackled at the highest levels. The stakes are very high and it is the credibility of the “Italian system” that is at stake.
For too long, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lacked a far-sighted political guide with a long-term strategy, and all its interventions are fragmented and often inconclusive. Only thanks to the valence of our ambassadors, often abandoned to themselves, have we managed to contain a diplomatic drift that has led Italy to be considered an unreliable country.
With Prime Minister Conte's visit to Eritrea and Ethiopia to greet the peace accords, there was hope for a radical change of attitude towards the two countries no longer divided by political obstacles, but finally united in their intentions. The facts have shown that Italy has not been able to seize the favorable moment that could have made it the front row protagonist of these epochal events, probably failing to evaluate their enormous implications and potential.
Do you intend to take the field to encourage a possible turnaround in diplomatic relations with Eritrea?
A few years ago the Hon. Andrea RICCARDI, but above all the Hon. Lapo PISTELLI had had some happy intuitions about the opportunity to concretely strengthen relations with Eritrea to overcome the negative effects due to years of neglect and inattention. Unfortunately, the political developments following these initiatives did not allow their realization.
On the occasion of a private conversation with President Isaias in Asmara during the celebrations for the jubilee of the liberation of the country to which he had been invited, I assumed the commitment to try in every way to honor what was promised by the Italian institutions and not implemented .
I still feel invested in this commitment and I intend to do everything possible in the primary interest of Italy and out of respect for Eritrea.