Interview. We spoke with Fabio Massimo Castaldo, European parliamentarian of the 5 Star Movement. ‘Putin’s imperialist ambitions don’t coincide with those of all his people. For this reason, we must give strong support to Russian civil society.’

Five Stars MEP: Europeans should not pay the cost of Russia’s war

“If we want Europe to become stronger on the global stage, the best path is to act together, avoiding unnecessary redundancy and overlap,” said Fabio Massimo Castaldo, MEP, former Vice-President of the European Parliament and head of the European delegation of the Five Star Movement led by Giuseppe Conte, commenting on the words of Joseph Borrell about indiscriminate military spending.

Will Borrell’s position have any effects on the Italian debate?

The authoritativeness of Borrell’s statements could lead the Italian debate back to discussing actual merit. His position supports what the M5S has been arguing: we need to spend better and spend together, not pursue national-level ramp-ups in an uncoordinated manner. The research center of the European Parliament has already calculated that with the current defense budgets of the 27 EU states, we could recover resources estimated at a total of around €45 billion per year, reinvesting them into strengthening European technological sovereignty and strategic autonomy and thus ensuring greater efficiency in public spending, in the interest of Italian and European taxpayers.

You voted in favor of the resolution on the European Council’s conclusions advocating for an embargo of Russian sources. 

It was an act of responsibility to consolidate the unity of purpose of the entire EU. On a practical level, however, reducing our current dependence will not be possible without a decisive change of pace, towards a full communitarization of the energy sector, with joint purchasing and storage. In order to make the proposal of the resolution a reality, we need to keep citizens and companies protected from collateral social and economic damage. We need united action at the European level, starting with the imposition of a cap on gas prices.

What is the Energy Recovery Fund that Conte spoke about a few days ago and that you also advocated for in Strasbourg? 

Our proposal starts from a fundamental principle: citizens and businesses cannot be the ones left to pay the bill for the sacrosanct sanctions against Russia. Therefore, the EU must establish an Energy Recovery Fund, financed through the issuance of common European debt, as already happened with Next Generation EU. This fund aims to achieve a twofold objective: to immediately compensate the costs incurred by citizens and entrepreneurs due to high energy bills, and to speed up the achievement of European energy autonomy through the maximization of investments in renewables.

Is Europe doing its best to leave open a diplomatic way out of the conflict? 

Since the beginning of the conflict, the EU has devoted considerable efforts to finding a fair and balanced diplomatic solution. Unfortunately, at the present time the negotiations appear very difficult, considering that on the ground, Putin seems instead to want to continue this criminal invasion to impose his agenda by the force of arms. The only way forward seems to be to make it clear to the Kremlin that the costs of a solution achieved by military force will be so high as to be unsustainable, and therefore the EU, in addition to sanctions, is committed to offering all the necessary support to Kiev in political, economic and humanitarian terms. Including with the supply of defensive military material.

In the past, the M5S supported Putin. Has that phase come to an end?

We have always condemned violations of human rights and the rule of law, regardless of which state or entity had committed them, including the Russian Federation: a few impromptu statements by some of our elected representatives in an individual capacity do not invalidate the consistency of our approach against any double standards. Nor should our willingness to keep the dialogue open, always holding firm to the core values of the EU, be mistaken for support. We don’t deny this willingness, which is also in line with the European principle of “selective engagement”; however, in light of the brutal invasion of Ukraine, it’s clear that a structured dialogue is currently entirely impractical. But Putin’s imperialist ambitions don’t coincide with those of all his people. For this reason, we must give strong support to Russian civil society, keeping alive the hope of a pro-European perspective once the rule of law is fully restored in the country.

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