Giorgia Meloni And Emmanuel Macron Debate Over Migrants

Over two weeks ago, Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, and President of France, Emmanuel Macron, accused each other of betrayal after a dispute over which nation should accept migrants trying to dock from a rescue boat, Ocean Viking. Operated by a French NGO, the Ocean Viking was refused by Italy and was subsequently redirected towards the French coast.

“Italy did not want to behave as a responsible European country”,  the French President alleged after the decision by Prime Minister Meloni. The Italian leader replied to these accusations in one of her press conferences, as reported in Politico’s article, stating she was struck by the “aggressive reaction” of the French government, “which is incomprehensible and unjustified” and pointed out that Italy has taken in 90,000 migrants from the Mediterranean this year, including 600 from NGO vessels. On the other hand, Politico’s article also reported that, after the Ocean Viking left Italy for France, Italian coalition members celebrated. Matteo Salvini, Vice Prime Minister and leader of the League, said: “The air has changed.” Maurizio Gasparri, a senator from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party said: “The policy of resoluteness on immigration pays off.” Inside France, Marie Le Pen criticized her own government for being too soft on the immigrant situation. Meanwhile, in Brussels, the European Commission reminds Italy that migrants must be allowed to disembark the vessel immediately.

As the dispute between France and Italy escalated, the Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, took the lead and personally intervened, holding a phone call with President Macron. During the call, both heads of state underlined the importance of the relationship between the two countries and confirmed the need for their full cooperation in every sector, both bilaterally and within the European Union. According to Politico’s article, Stefano Ceccanti, a constitutional lawyer and senior figure in the Democratic party, said that, as Italian governments are often short-lived, it is not uncommon for presidents, who sit for seven years, to help out with international affairs. President Mattarella has been Italy’s President since 2015, while Prime Minister Meloni took office just this past October. “What is unusual,”  Ceccanti said, “is for this call to be made public, and immediately. By making it public this time, Mattarella is helping the government, by showing that the problem has been resolved, so as to turn the incident into a footnote.” Raffaele Marchetti, professor of international relations at Luiss University in Rome, said President Mattarella’s intervention was “fairly unusual,” but as the President already facilitated the treaty with France once, he may have felt some duty to help out.

Despite President Mattarella’s attempt to sooth the tensions, these types of actions and decisions will eventually isolate Italy from its European partners. Germany and Spain sided with France and Italy found itself even more isolated, meanwhile, in Brussels, an extraordinary meeting has been called to calm down the tensions. The cooperation Italy expects won’t be found if they continue to ignore European values.

In the end, the NGO vessel landed on the French coast and most of the migrants were relocated to Germany, but the dispute cannot be left behind. What Prime Minister Meloni did is wrong and against European values. As the German ambassador to Rome tweeted, the NGO vessels “deserve our recognition and support,” considering that they rescue thousands of migrants from inhuman conditions. Peaceful cooperation between European leaders will be essential to handling this crisis.


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