With the bridge, Sicily will be Europe’s gateway to the Mediterranean. The former minister Lunardi speaks

With the bridge, Sicily will be Europe’s gateway to the Mediterranean. The former minister Lunardi speaks
With the bridge, Sicily will be Europe’s gateway to the Mediterranean. The former minister Lunardi speaks

He, the bridge over the Strait, held it at baptism. He conceived it, he imagined it, he defined the project over twenty years ago. He just needed to realize it. “Everything was ready in 2005. Then the following year the government fell and everything was reset”. The former Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Peter Lunardi warmly welcomes the approval, by decree, of the maxi infrastructure. Also because “it starts again from that project, which comes from afar”. He doesn’t use epic tones, but claims to have “laid the foundations” and somehow traced a furrow. Now that the construction of the bridge has been approved by the Council of Ministers, Lunardi is certain that “Sicily will become Europe’s gateway to the Mediterranean”. Because it is there, “as the prime minister rightly reiterated Giorgia Meloni, the European center of gravity”.

Minister, what remains of “your” project in the one approved by the CDM?

It is that, essentially. The plan that I had approved between 2001 and 2005, which also passed the scrutiny of the Cipe and which was included in the international tendering procedure for the construction. Eurolink, which included Italian, Spanish and Japanese companies (later another Danish one was added) could have started construction sites in 2005. Then, however, the political arrangements changed and it never started again.

Did the next executive cancel everything?

The bridge was no longer considered a priority infrastructure for the country. In 2006, the new government canceled everything done by the previous one without however “touching” the contractual aspects linked to the tender. The preliminary project was carried out by the company of the Strait, which is the heart of the system and has the function of carrying out the work together with all the other actors. So it remained.

On paper, the “cable-stayed” bridge (supported by cables) will be 3.2km long with one span. Minister Salvini claims that it will be the “greenest building in the world”. But there is some controversy about this. What is his opinion?

The creation of this infrastructure will certainly have very positive effects in environmental terms. There is no doubt that the CO2 consumption will be much lower. The pollution produced by the heavy transit of ferries in the Strait and by the queues of cars waiting to embark, both in Sicily and in Calabria, will be significantly reduced. I also feel optimistic about the “green” aspect of this work.

In this regard, the European Investment Bank is also evaluating participation in the project – after having already entered the Invest Eu plan which will make 3.4 billion available for the redevelopment of the Palermo – Catania railway section.

It is an extremely positive fact, but also in this case it must be remembered that the bridge over the Strait is a project born in Europe.

In what sense?

During the second half of 2003, when I was president of all European ministers, I had the task of drawing up the new system of trans-European corridors. Within the Berlin-Palermo corridor (which included railways and motorways), the bridge over the Strait was also inserted as a cross-border work. Among other things, for these particular infrastructures (the bridge, in fact, and the Brenner Pass) EU participation was established through specific funds. Europe can reach up to 50% of the total amount of investment. Let’s hope that, at least to the extent of 20%, even now the European Community decides to participate in the investment.

Why do you argue that through the bridge Sicily will become Europe’s gateway to the Mediterranean?

President Meloni rightly said that the center of gravity of Europe is the Mediterranean, whatever the lords of the North say about it. Currently 35% of world trade passes between Gibraltar and Suez. It is evident that Sicily’s position, strengthened by an infrastructure such as the bridge over the Strait, would be more than strategic. Somehow the bridge will become a “magnet” for all European traffic. With the bridge and the high-speed railways, ships will be spared four to five days of travel: they will be able to unload the goods in Sicily and have them arrive at the ports of the North.

Apart from the political reasons, why has there been a lack of will to build such a strategic infrastructure in these fifteen years?

You see, Italians are often divided into fan groups. The occasion of the construction of the bridge over the Strait generated a division between opposing factions. As if we were facing a cycling race: who was with Coppi, who was with Bartali. However, a fundamental aspect has been overlooked in this debate: mobility is a right for a citizen. Where there is a lack of infrastructure and therefore the ability to move around is reduced, there is no economic development. I will say more: the stasis situation creates fertile ground for the proliferation of criminal activities. On the contrary, where there is dynamism and prosperity, organized crime finds it more difficult to take root.

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