What Meloni wants is to manipulate a crisis now so as the EU coughs up either huge amounts of cash, or simply blocks the migrants crossing
While it’s entirely understandable that the new right-wing coalition government in Italy is concerned about levels of immigrants from Africa – via Tunisia and Libya – it’s worth wondering how much credibility Giorgia Meloni has left with international institutions and the media in general. Her period in office began with a controversial video clip of her ranting about France and its colonial policies it carries out in its former colonies in West Africa (mostly untrue allegations) and the level of excremental material coming from her ministries about the subject can only do damage to her and her government in the longer run.
Just recently one of her ministers made extraordinary allegations about the Wagner group in a number of African countries being behind a deliberate plan to send more African migrants to Libya, which he failed to back up with any evidence at all. This quickly was followed up by another minister trying to outbid his colleague in bullshit, by claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood was about to take power in Tunisia, once, presumably, President Saied is overthrown. Feral, polemic allegations based on not a shred of evidence or measured analysis but designed to hold the blade to the neck of EU officials torn between two realities: lower than ever turnouts at EU elections next year due to spiraling number of African immigrants on the one hand, vs, on the other becoming slaves to African dictators like Saied who will capitalise on how weak the EU is and how much it can be exploited.
A number of senior EU officials are in Tunisia, at the time of press. Their objectives are in line with Meloni’s: to try and break the impasse which has blocked an IMF loan for Tunisia. The problem for the EU is that for it to play such a role – to be a broker which micro manages so-called reforms of a dictatorship such as Saied’s which breaks records in the speed it takes to round up anyone who criticises its policies – sets an appalling precedent for the project in Brussels. It will be a signal to all despots in the MENA region which will indicate that they can round up, imprison and torture as many political dissidents as they feel necessary, in exchange for not allowing their own African immigrants to take the boats heading towards the EU. Who cares about human rights atrocities akin to what Hitler, Goebels and Himmler did in the second world war when really all matters is that the EU elite keep their cosy jobs in Brussels and can continue the farce that the EU is some sort of superpower democracy which “competes” with the U.S. on the world stage.
Of course, this is nothing more than a wet dream. But it’s one which Meloni understands only too well. She doesn’t want to wait for even more far-right votes in the European elections in 2024. What she wants is to manipulate a crisis now so as the EU coughs up either huge amounts of cash, or simply blocks the migrants crossing in the first place. She is in a win-win situation in many ways and her recent threats to appeal to NATO to patrol the Libyan border was aimed specifically at humiliating the EU, as, under such a plan, there is a loud message which resonates from it: the EU isn’t a superpower and it has no super power dynamics so has to rely on other institutions. The hue and cry will no longer be how much “the EU needs its own army” but more how it should be smarter when it takes such bold decisions to hit Russia with sanctions. No one actually believes that Putin is sending African immigrants in greater numbers to Libya. Or indeed if that greater numbers are leaving Tunisia due to Russia’s instructions. There is a link to Russia. But the EU refuses to see it in that the EU’s policies in those African countries have brought about greater numbers of middle-class Africans leaving their own countries, following decades of their despots imposing harsher and more brutal human rights abuses to stay in power. The link with Russia is simply that the Ukraine war has taken away the EU’s token level of prestige and soft power in the entire African continent. If the EU was really a superpower, even a pseudo superpower, why can’t it resolve any of the problems of the North African region? And the Ukraine war has emboldened Russia in Africa, even though Putin hasn’t got around to sending thousands of these African migrants to Italy as a political tool. I’m sure though he’s really grateful to the EU for making the suggestion. If energy prices don’t destroy EU countries, immigration will certainly bring down governments and destroy what we know as the EU today. Of course, we all know that western elites will never accept responsibility for such a demise and are punch drunk on their own narratives so there’s no prizes for guessing where the finger pointing will be. Mamma mia!
The author is an award winning journalist based in Morocco, working for a number of international titles while also the editor in chief of Maghrebi.org. He can be followed on twitter at @MartinRJay This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Maghrebi.org but we do nonetheless encourage freedom of expression and even the ‘right to reply’. If you want to contribute to the Opinion section, feel free to send your article to email@example.com