The Biden-Meloni call. On Monday, as over 3,000 people gathered in the United States Embassy in Rome to celebrate Independence Day, US President Joe Biden had a telephone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni “as part of his close coordination with key Allies and partners following recent events in Russia,” a White House readout explained.
- President Biden had also reached out to other leaders, including Ukraine’s, Canada’s and the Quad’s – France, Germany and the United Kingdom, plus the US – following the flare-up of internal tensions in Russia.
- As former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker told our sister website, not looping in Italy within the Quad- (Quint-)format talks is due to the US’ “bad habits” on such occasions. Still, Monday’s phone call underscored the existence of a solid entente between the US and Italian leaders, as had also emerged at the Hiroshima G-7 Summit.
Talking Ukraine, NATO… According to the readout, PM Meloni and President Biden “affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine” and coordinated ahead of the upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius – which Italy hopes will be the birthplace of a new NATO-Ukraine Council, a coordination forum that’s also conducive to Kyiv joining the Alliance at a later stage.
… and Africa. The two leaders also “discussed developments in North Africa,” where progress on the International Monetary Fund’s loan to address the Tunisian economic crisis remains stalled. PM Meloni’s office reported that President Biden asked her details about Rome’s engagement in the enlarged Mediterranean and EU cooperation for stability in Africa.
- Over the past weeks, however, PM Meloni had lobbied allies to adopt a more pragmatic line – and on Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU would greenlight financing for Tunisia, in line with Italy’s suggestions.
- European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi was expected to sign the EU-Tunisia Memorandum of Understanding on migration (which is closely connected to economic instability and EU financing), announced by European leaders during their recent trip to Tunis. However, his mission was cancelled as negotiations, which will resume next Monday, slowed down.
- Rome’s outreach is part of a vaster plan, dubbed the Mattei Plan and centred on fostering African development via targeted investments, set to be unveiled in autumn. The dossier most likely cropped up in the context of PM Meloni and President Biden’s Africa talks, and will probably be explored further when the two meet.
- Expect some degree of convergence between the Mattei Plan, a prong of the EU’s Global Gateway in and of itself, and the US’ Build Back Better World initiative.
Meloni’s upcoming trip to Washington. President Biden officially invited Prime Minister Meloni to visit the White House in July. It’s the culmination of a series of high-level trips: the trip was finalised when Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Washington a fortnight ago.
- Ministers Giancarlo Giorgetti (Economy), Giuseppe Valditara (Education), Adolfo Urso (Enterprise) and Guido Crosetto (Defence) and Matteo Piantedosi (Interior) also visited Washington over the past weeks, and a US parliamentary delegation led by Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House of Representatives, made its way to Rome.