She was wrong, totally wrong. Before she won the election, just a year ago, Mrs Meloni was making a point of resolving the migration issue by the national virtue of a “naval blockade”. Now that the number of migrants has quite simply doubled under her government, she is appealing for EU solidarity by having the President of the Commission come to the island of Lampedusa, where more than 7,000 people have arrived in one day for a population of less than 7,000.
Better late than never, but Giorgia Meloni now has a duty to tell all the European extreme right-wingers that they can no longer continue to oppose the solidarity advocated by the Commission and supported by the overwhelming majority of MEPs and the 27 heads of state and government. Since she has finally convinced herself of this, she has a duty to tell her political friends and cousins, in particular those who govern in Budapest and Warsaw, that, yes, of course, the migrants who arrive on European shores must be distributed among all the EU Member States and no longer left to the sole responsibility of the Mediterranean countries, and that those Member States that refuse this distribution must then contribute to a common pot.
This is an essential proposal, because if we don’t implement it, there is only one alternative. Either we leave Italy, but also Cyprus, Malta and Greece, to fend for themselves, or we will sink at sea those migrant boats that the waves have not sent to the bottom. Without solidarity between Member States, we will quickly let the Union explode or resolve to organise mass crimes, because there is no magic solution to the problem we face.
Tens of thousands of young people are being pushed towards the Promised Land Europe by a misery that demography, wars and political instability in Africa are going to exacerbate and that global warming will soon increase tenfold. They will always prefer the risk of death to the certainty of it. In other words, nothing will stop them from dreaming of reaching Europe to find a decent life, just as so many Europeans dreamed of America in the last century and so many Latin Americans dream of it today. Europe attracts young Africans and will continue to do so, but does that mean we should resign ourselves to a disorderly influx that threatens us with political unrest and even chaos?
Certainly not. On the contrary, in both the long and the short term, we need to rise to the challenge.
Right now, it is a question not only of ensuring that the solidarity of the 27 prevails, but also of distinguishing between economic migrants and those fleeing prison, torture or assassination. The former are entitled to political asylum. The others, who are infinitely more numerous, have no such right. In other words, it is a question of knowing who is who and thus giving ourselves the means – by putting pressure on the countries of origin and developing joint control of our common borders – to send home people whom we have no reason to welcome because the Union, to paraphrase Michel Rocard, cannot take in all the misery in the world.
In the long and medium term, however, we can only stem the tide of illegal entry attempts by helping to create jobs in Africa. Many do not believe in this. Many will shrug their shoulders. We have been talking about this for decades, they will think, but the novelty is that Europeans now see that it is not in their interest to enrich and strengthen a strategic competitor by continuing to produce in China; that the costs and environmental damage of transport are much lower between Africa and the EU than between Asia and Europe; and that the more jobs there are on the other side of the Mediterranean, the less tempting it will be to cross it on a walnut shell.
As Mrs Meloni has come to realise, it is not by calling for a retreat into nationalism that we will combat the anarchy of migration. It is by closing and tightening the ranks of the Union, because it is only united that we will be able to control our borders and lay the foundations for a co-development with Africa.