Speaking with Il Foglio, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni outlined her stance on essentially all current issues. We distilled the lengthy interview: here are our main takeaways.
On migration and Africa. Immigration is “a phenomenon that must be regulated,” she said, noting that “we cannot allow traffickers to choose who arrives in Italy”. She then pointed to the conflict in Sudan and the presence of Russia’s Wagner Group across the African continent as “another chapter in the ‘long war’ between old, new, and emerging powers.”
- “The war in Ukraine has a multidimensional impact – think of the food and raw materials crisis that impacts the destiny of millions of people in the poorest areas of Africa – that we’re only beginning to understand in its entirety.”
On Tunisia. “The situation in Tunisia worries me every day; it needs an urgent response,” said the PM. “The [intelligence] services tell us that a potential wave of 900,000 people is preparing to land on the shores of Europe.” The International Monetary Fund financing for the country “must be unblocked,” she added, calling on the EU, the US and the World Bank to help and highlighting that Italian diplomacy is engaging with international allies in all international fora.
On the EU’s south. “The problem of the southern border is not only Italy’s, but the whole of Europe’s,” she noted, pointing at the Tunisian crisis, the situation in Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and “the Sahel area, which is the first gateway to Europe.”
- The significant expected demographic growth of the African population, estimated to reach hundreds of millions, completes the “picture of the migratory crisis [that’s] before the eyes of those who want to see. If aspirations for prosperity and social justice are not met with concrete answers – funding and reforms, assistance that has to be delivered in presence – failure and chaos are just around the corner.”
On the Mattei Plan. The government is working to present in October an investment plan for African countries to alleviate those crises and foster economic growth. PM Meloni described it as a “non-predatory model of cooperation that gives African nations a chance to seize, with our help, the great opportunities that derive from their resources.”
On the EU’s role. The Italian leader said the bloc must commit itself to Africa in three key areas:
- Setting up “a naval and air operation for the surveillance of the Central and Eastern Mediterranean and the fight against human traffickers, in close coordination and support with the countries of departure, which in turn must be equipped with all the necessary means to crush trafficking.”
- Possessing “a robust financial capacity for economic investment in the African continent. Funding must be provided on the basis of binding agreements, measurable by objectives and results.” This is to be applied primarily to departure States and the poorest countries that need immediate help: “virtuous cooperation in exchange for a commitment to fight illegal immigration.”
- Bolstering “a capillary presence [in] training, education and research for the young people of the African continent” so as to help “concrete openings” for women in institutions, cultural growth and rights awareness (including religious freedoms).”
On Italy’s Recovery Plan. “We are working with the European Commission, and we intend to use all the means at our disposal to carry out the works and make the necessary reforms. The [Plan] suffers from the same problems as other instruments designed before the change in the geopolitical scenario: we are in an economy of high inflation, rising rates and war, no longer a post-pandemic emergency.” Thus, the project’s costs have increased.
- PM Meloni also highlighted the “ideological approach” and “lack of pragmatism” of the EU’s Green Deal and called for a course correction.
- The priority is “not losing the money. And we will do this, bringing things back to their design and feasibility dimension.”
On the US… “Washington’s protectionism is not going away, but it is being matched with open and fair competition [from the EU], with new transatlantic trade partnerships, with aligned central bank policies on rates and crisis management (recurring and ever closer), of virtuous Western collaboration to counter the real danger to our transforming economies: China and the other economies that are no longer emerging, have emerged, and are in the midst of an industrial revolution.”
… China, and the green transition. Circling back to the Green Deal, the PM said that Rome intends to maximise Italy’s energy mix, keeping with the principle of tech neutrality and avoiding dependence, as in the past. “Decoupling from Russian gas and then depending on China’s rare earth on electricity is not a wise choice. The transition must be gradual, without risky leaps forward,” she said.
- On this matter, “we are working with the EU. We have saved the internal combustion engine and opened negotiations on biofuels; we are on the right track.”
- “National security doesn’t solely amount to diversified energy supply, but the defence of jobs in our manufacturing, particularly in the automotive sector where Italy is a major producer. We must develop research, invest in technology, attract investment[s].”
On Ukraine. “Europe’s freedom, its material and ideal borders are threatened by Russia’s war of aggression.” The matter is existential for the West, she said, noting that a slowdown in action in support of Kyiv’s resistance might drive other countries to think they can “gamble with war to achieve the greatest goal: weakening the liberal order and strengthening the power and global influence of dictatorships, democracies and authoritarian regimes.”
- “This we cannot allow, for Europe is a test of history that has no alternative: we must ‘win the peace’. And to win it, we must support Ukraine politically and militarily with firmness and wisdom.”
- Italy’s support for Ukraine’s independence “will never lack; it will always be coordinated with the allies in a framework of multilateralism. We will give Ukraine all the assistance it needs to exercise its right to legitimate defence, according to what the United Nations Charter states, according to what our conscience dictates to us as Europeans, as Italians who love and defend freedom.”