New Europe caught up with Italy’s minister for labour and social policy, Giuliano Poletti, in the northern Italian city of Padua to discuss immigration, growth and innovation in Europe.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has stressed his dissatisfaction with European policies strongly affecting Italy. What is your opinion?

Yes, PM Renzi was right to stress very clearly that we are not satisfied with Europe. On the migrant crisis, the EU is not implementing the necessary effective policies. On the economic side, we can’t delay and continue a nonsense discussion between austerity and growth. If we continue such a debate we are lagging behind 10 years. We need to strongly push for growth, otherwise Europe risks straying far from the citizen.

Also, I’m totally against this idea that Italy is a selfish country asking for flexibility and other financial advantages. On the contrary, we think that if growth and social Europe are not entering strongly in the EU policies this is not a problem only for Italy.

Everybody is pretending not to be aware of the economic figures, but in the last trimester, Italy had a GDP growth of 0% just like France. Therefore, if these two important countries are growing so slowly it is difficult to say that only Italy is a problem and that the other EU countries are doing great economically.

The migrant crisis continues to affect Italy and the other Mediterranean countries, what should Europe do about this now?

On immigration, we have to work on multiple fronts. We have an obligation to rescue migrants from the Mediterranean. I don’t accept the inhuman idea that they should just sink and die. But this doesn’t mean that if we rescue the migrants we have the obligation to manage the hospitality of every single migrant arriving in Italy.

This is a challenge for us also in terms of management and budget, not forgetting the social tensions it creates. We have to act in the countries of origin in Africa. We presented a very articulated proposal to Europe about how to manage this crisis, but, unfortunately, we are still waiting for a concrete answer. If the EU is not able to give a clear answer, then the citizens will have the idea that the EU is not able to draft policies in favour of the people. The result of this climate is, for example, referendums against the EU.

What do you think about the various proposals to build walls in Europe to block migrants from entering?

This is crazy because it is not going to solve the problem. Europe can be great project if it will be able to face world’s challenges and to play with the big global competitors. It is a purely self-destructive idea to go back to a Europe based on many small and closed nations. Italy is assuming its responsibilities, but the other countries should do the same. Otherwise, others are going to take the votes. Let’s open our eyes to what has happened in Austria, UK and in Germany. This phenomenon is not a remote possibility because it happened already many times this year.

How important is it to put research and development at the heart of Europe?

We should discuss more about research and innovation in Europe if we want to compete seriously at world’s level.

The United States and China, for example, have at the moment investment capacities which are a lot bigger than us. Therefore, if we don’t join forces I see a very dark future for Europe. We have to stay in the high range where we produce innovation which provides also job opportunities. On the other side, you slip down in an area where innovation is destroying a bit the job opportunities. A nice example here is the creation of the online bank accounts where some professional figures have been “cancelled”.