The all-encompassing strategy. Migration, food security, the Transatlantic dialogue, Africa, the enlarged Mediterranean, the Indo-Pacific, and the United States: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has been and is being across it all, bringing Rome closer to the centre of global dynamics through a series of initiatives.
- There’s a general sense of appreciation enveloping the executive and its leader, who is benefitting from an agenda of important appointments and showing off her ability to move in these spaces.
- Crucially, PM Meloni is shifting from attending important international events (such as the G20 in Indonesia a month into her term) to organising them. Case in point:
The Rome Migration Forum. On Sunday, the Italian PM presided over a meeting with the broader Mediterranean world. Admittedly, the effort’s key driver was the issue of migration – which is politically and electorally crucial for Italian conservatives, and also remains a wider security issue for the entire area. Still, the initiative could well become the foundation for a broader format.
- Italy is showing its willingness to position itself as a reference within the enlarged Mediterranean, which is where the government intends to take the first steps to the long-awaited Mattei Plan, i.e. the strategic tool with which it should project itself toward Africa.
- This outreach also entails leveraging the possibility of cooperating elsewhere in the world with partners. For instance, Middle Eastern countries – especially the Gulf kingdoms – are eager to occupy a more prominent international position.
Food security is another key issue Rome is engaging with by hosting the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Summit on food security, Tuesday through Wednesday. Members of the executive are slated to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, among other international leaders, and discuss the issue. The summit comes at a crucial time, with Russia blowing up the Ukrainian grain export deal, India’s decision to halt outbound sales of rice, and challenging weather conditions impacting harvests and crops.
- All these elements will drive up food inflation and exacerbate food insecurity, particularly in the Global South. Beyond more people having difficulty accessing food, the effects include dynamics of destabilisation, protests, civil or regional wars.
- Through its African projection and the Mattei Plan – which encompasses part of the Global South –, Italy is in a position to bring value, in terms of capacity and experience, to the topic.
Think Indo-Pacific… During the FAO Summit, PM Meloni will meet with the institutional leaders of Bangladesh and Vietnam in attendance. The double occasion is a chance to continue Italy’s dialogue, and thus activities, with actors in the Indo-Pacific region, where Dhaka and Hanoi are two hook points for Rome – especially in light of building resilient and friend-shored supply chains to de-risk from China.
- Bangladesh is the top country for remittances going out of Italy, a testament to how many Bengalis live there; but there’s a strong industrial and commercial connection between the two countries as well.
- On the other hand, Italy has had a strategic partnership with Vietnam since 2013. And US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighted Hanoi’s importance across several areas, including the energy transition.
… and look to the United States. Then on Thursday, the Italian PM will land in Washington, where she will be hosted by the White House and Congress. As the Atlantic Council’s Rachel Rizzo told our sister website, the US appreciates Italy’s work to bridge Mediterranean and African countries.
- Most notably, many of the above dossiers strike a chord in the heart of US policymakers, who understand both the direct (and humanitarian) effects of Italy’s foreign policies as well as their future potential: fostering development as well as curbing the risk of rival, anti-Western rival actors penetration.
While in Washington, Ms Meloni will work to green up the already-excellent bilateral relations, strengthen the Italian position within the Atlanticist axis, and promote her political vision among US conservatives. She will also have opportunities to touch upon sensitive dossiers such as the handling of relations with China, a significant foreign policy test in and of itself.
All around the world. Further confirming Rome’s centrality in global affairs was last week’s EU-CELAC Summit (between the European Union and Latin America), where Italy is a privileged interlocutor because of the people-to-people relations that historically bind it to the continent.
- PM Meloni was also instrumental in brokering the recent EU-Tunisia agreement…
- … and her team had a role in the release of Patrick Zaki, the student who was unjustly persecuted by Egyptian authorities and who obtained a presidential pardon just last week – a symbolic affair that nonetheless bears testament to Italy’s newfound centrality.