by Anna Violante
Since coming to power last September, Meloni has travelled far and wide to build personal and political relationships with European institutions and world leaders who can help her in her main battle: preventing migrants from landing on Italian shores and redistributing asylum seekers among EU member states. She travelled to Tunisia and Brussels to convince Saied and the EU of the need for special funding for a plan to keep migrants in Tunisia. She travelled to the UK to plan a joint strategy with Rishi Sunak to send migrants back to Africa, she visited several African countries to hold bilateral meetings, and in early June, she proudly attended the European Council summit to make a new migration deal between European countries that would change the Dublin Regulation, which requires migrants and asylum seekers to stay where they land until they have been fully processed.
Meloni’s expectations were optimistic that the final meeting on 30 June would approve the deal. But something went wrong. Hungary and Poland objected, and the planned mandatory redistribution of asylum seekers between member states remained voluntary. Under the deal, the target would have been to relocate at least 30,000 migrants a year, but countries would have had the choice of accepting people or paying 20,000 euros for every migrant they did not. In a final concession to Italy, the money could have gone into a collective pot to be used by the EU to fund unspecified ‘projects’ abroad.
The day after the meeting was Meloni angry with her friends Orban and Morawiecki? Not at all. She justified their refusal to sign the agreement as well-meaning nationalism and flew to Warsaw a week later. With the Polish prime minister, she not only discussed a way out to get the migrant deal signed but also bilateral cooperation (exchanges reached €33.6 billion in 2022, up 16%), security, defence, the enlargement of the Union to the Western Balkans and the institutional EU reform, which would replace unanimity with qualified majority voting, with Poland’s disapproval. Support for Ukraine and sanctions against Moscow didn’t require much discussion, as the two leaders have similar views on this issue.
At the end of the morning meeting between the two leaders, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the European political party to which both Meloni and Morawiecki belong, held a lunch meeting to plan a joint strategy for the European elections. The group’s main aim is to enter the European government through alliances with either the EPP or the far right, depending on the number of seats they win, and to push through a reform of the European Union. On its official website, the ECR says: “The European Union must change; some argue that the solution is more Europe, others that the solution is no Europe. But the ECR believes that neither federalist fundamentalists nor anti-European abolitionists offer real solutions to the problems facing Europe today. The ECR instead offers a bold alternative vision of a reformed European Union as a community of nations cooperating in shared confederal institutions in areas where they have some common interests that can best be advanced by working together.”
It’s certain that Meloni will try to lead the whole group as head of the most important country if the ECR receives a significant confirmation in the next elections. For his part, Morawiecki will first have to face domestic elections against EPP leader Donald Tusk and is planning to hold a referendum on migrants on the same day, certain of the approval of the Polish people in rejecting immigrants other than Ukrainians.
Cover image: Giorgia Meloni, Italian Prime Minister © Vincenzo Izzo/Shutterstock.com