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Meloni’s Ambiguity on Migration a Challenge for European Security

Dániel Deme 2023.07.24.
There was a rather stern look on Viktor Orbán’s (L) face during their EU Summit meeting in March.

Major news outlets were in a celebratory mood on Sunday when Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had expressed her view, according to which Italy and Europe need more migrants. Albeit her words were misquoted and taken out of context, there is an element of strategic ambiguity in her stance which worries some of her allies in the conservative camp.

Illegal immigration is harmful to everyone except traffickers, Giorgia Meloni said in her opening speech at the Development and Migration Conference in Rome on Sunday, calling for development aid for countries of origin as a solution to stop migrants leaving. She said she wanted to launch the so-called “Rome process” to stop the mass illegal immigration into Europe.
The Italian Prime Minister said that plans to tackle migration issues had failed because of the relationship between Europe and the Mediterranean and other countries of origin, not based on dialogue and equality between the parties, but on competition and conflicting interests. Europe “must not give a lesson, but a hand,” said Meloni.

The Italian leader likes to be seen in the company of conservative personalities, such as businessman Elon Musk. Photo: Facebook Giorgia Meloni

Meloni put the fight against illegal immigration at the top of the list of objectives, followed by managing legal immigration, supporting refugees, and working together to promote development in regions, especially in Africa.
However, she stressed that

Europe’s and Italy’s economies need immigrants, but we must only let in those whom our countries are able to take in, because if we cannot take care of them, it is not solidarity.”

She also noted that immigrants employed as workers should be trained before they leave their countries.

Following the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Tunisia and the European Union on June 16, Meloni announced that Rome would host a conference with countries affected by migration. Meloni will meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Thursday to discuss migration, and has convened an Italy-Africa summit in Rome in early November.

The Hungarian President, Katalin Novák, calls Meloni her “friend.” Photo: Facebook Giorgia Meloni

It is clear that Meloni’s “Europe needs more migrants” statement came with some caveats that most European media outlets have chosen to ignore; nevertheless, the disquiet over her statements and the worsening migration crisis on the Italian shore is growing in conservative circles. Prior to being elected prime minister in October last year, she was as much vilified by the left wing press as a right-wing radical for her stance on immigration, as praised by the conservative outlets. Now, in contrast,

she is hoping to find a solution to Europe’s most burning question with the help of the ailing US president, who has ignored an unprecedented migrant crisis on his country’s borders ever since he came into office in 2021.

Her alliance with Matteo Salvini, the leader of Lega and Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, has in the past given hope to Italian and international public opinion worried about the rising waves of illegal migration. Since gaining power though, she was just as happy to align her message with the pro-migration European left, as with that of the anti-migration right. Her policies, or their lack thereof, have resulted in an unprecedented migrant crisis on Italy’s shores, not seen since 2015, surpassing even the number seen during the days of the Mario Draghi government. Numbers of illegal arrivals have doubled since she took power, and her main solution to the problem seems to insist on the EU’s migrant quota system, where Member States would be forced to take in migrants or pay huge amounts in compensation.

Her coalition partner, Matteo Salvini, is seldom heard from regarding the topic of immigration, something he used to be known for as interior minister. Both politicians, Meloni and Slavini, are still nurturing close ties with the government of Viktor Orbán, but messages of mutual support are becoming few and far between, while political co-operation on the migration front, which the government in Budapest strongly hoped for, has not materialized.

Photo: Facebook Matteo Salvini (R)

Although increasingly muted, messages of friendship still surface occasionally between the current Italian and Hungarian leadership, but the Italian leader will soon have to realize that

there is no middle ground regarding the politics of mass migration in Europe.

If the migrant boats will continue to arrive, she may well be forced to come all out on one side. However, as things stand, the European right is viewing her with growing skepticism, while the left seem to be already celebrating another “scalp” from the conservative camp.

Featured Image: Facebook Viktor Orbán

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