A Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, on the Refusal to Granting Overflight Rights to Evo Morales

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES AND SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 1st, 3rd, AND 4th JOINT COMMISSIONS, XVII LEGISLATURE, 1st MEETING, 4 JULY 2013.

On 4 July 2013, Minister Bonino made reference to the actions taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relation to an incident occurred to the Bolivian President, Evo Morales, during his way back to Bolivia after an official visit to Moscow. The presidential aircraft had requested an authorization to fly over some European countries that was eventually rejected on 2 July 2013. This generated protests from Latin American countries, which saw the refusal to grant the overflight permission as stemming from the suspicion that Mr. Snowden was on board of the Presidential aircraft. In her statement, Ms. Bonino highlights the connections between this incident and the security measures adopted after 9/11 by the US and made some considerations on the relevance for Italy and the EU of the Snowden case. She stated: 

Concerning the facts occurred on 2 July, involving the Bolivian President during his flight back home his visit to Moscow, I would like to point out the following. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs forwarded a request for a flyover of the national airspace, received on 28 June. On 29 June, the Air Force Staff gave the authorization, but on 2 July at 9 p.m. the operations room of the Air Operations Command was informed by the Coordination and Control Service that the Bolivian President’s aircraft was denied over flight permission by France, Spain, and Portugal.

In addition, the service staff at the terminals noted that at 9:17 p.m. the aircraft in question had changed the planned route, heading to the Vienna airport, where it landed about thirty minutes later. Therefore, Italy did not have to do anything. Following the landing at another airport, the over flight request was terminated in accordance with the related regulation.

On 3 July at 1.20 a.m., the French authorities, after completing the verification procedures with the Austrian counterparts, again authorized the flyover of their air space. Thus, another flyover plan, which Italy authorized immediately, was submitted to us.

Then she added:

So far I presented the facts as we knew them. However, I would like to share with you some considerations. First, this incident is part of the instruments by which the United States decided to protect their national security, particularly after 9/11 and in light of the challenges posed by cyber-security issues. We cannot ignore this dimension of the problem since the security of European countries is intrinsically linked to the American security through the NATO and the sincere cooperation between intelligence agencies.

It is therefore important to distinguish between, on the one hand, the security strategy of the main country in the Atlantic Alliance and on the other hand (in the event that the information provided by Snowden is confirmed and the United States does not give exhaustive answers) the excesses of a wide and old practice that we, as allies, do not consider acceptable.

The second consideration is the following. The key point, that we cannot deal with until we receive the requested clarifications, is to understand what these two programmes require, what modalities they adopt to reconcile the growing security demands with the necessary protection of privacy and of the diplomatic and institutional prerogatives. We need to verify what guarantees are concretely ensured to foreign citizens and to diplomatic missions.

On these points, we need to obtain clarity and transparency through an enhanced dialogue with the United States, since even when it comes to intelligence issues, which by definition and historically are subject to unclear practices, there should exist shared redlines.

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