After Italy refused to take the rescued people, the German refugee ship Geo Barents called for help. Boatmen in Sicily were allowed to disembark only after protests.
Atlantic alliance, EU values, sanctions against Moscow. During the election campaign, Georgia Meloni (45) signaled support and partnership to the Western world. Emmanuel Macron (44) especially hoped for good bilateral relations with Italy’s first head of government. But three weeks after Melonis took office, the neighboring countries are already facing diplomatic turmoil. The reason: the refugee policy of the new right-wing government in Rome.
Both countries want the EU to cap gas prices and provide them with extra billions in loans against their own energy and economic crisis – a new aid package that some EU countries, including powerful Germany, reject. Macron opted for a strategic alliance with Italy. The French President was therefore the first foreign head of state to meet the newly appointed Prime Minister in Rome.
Refugee ships thwart Macron’s plans
Later four refugee rescue ships appear in Italy. The world led by Emmanuel Macron reminds us of who Giorgia Meloni really is: leader of the far-right “Brothers of Italy” and right-wing populist coalition.
The new government closes ports to rescue ships. Most on board were not persecuted, but immigrants, hence the reason. After Europe-wide protests, three ships are finally allowed to dock for “humanitarian reasons”. However, the Ocean Viking of the SOS Méditerranée organization was dispatched. The ship is heading for France with 234 people rescued from the disaster. It is allowed to dock at Toulon on Friday morning. The boat people are to be distributed to France, Germany and other EU countries.
First Prime Minister: Das Italian Georgia Meloni(00:59)
A thank-you letter causes a scandal
In a public letter, the Italian government thanked France “for its decision to share responsibility for the refugee crisis that Italy and some other Mediterranean countries should shoulder alone”.
Paris replied angrily. French Interior Minister Gérald Dormanin (40) insists that the Ocean Viking’s clearance is a one-time gesture that Italy has acted inhumanely. In June, a solidarity agreement was adopted at the EU conference on the voluntary distribution of refugees to EU countries. Accordingly, France and Germany each wanted to take 3,500 refugees from Italy this year.
It’s over now, Dharmanin immediately explained. France’s interior minister wants Germany and other EU countries to suspend the mechanism. In addition, Gerald Dorman sent 500 police officers to ten border crossings with Italy to prevent the entry of refugees from Italy.
The reason for the uproar: President Emmanuel Macron lost an absolute majority in parliamentary elections in June 2022 and will now have to contend with a strong right-wing populist opposition, Marine Le Pen’s Rallye Nationale (54). So dealing with refugees is a political tightrope for Macron.
For Georgia Meloney, the scandal comes at an unimaginably bad time. Italy is struggling after corona lockdowns, is heavily in debt and urgently needs more EU financial injections. But on refugees, the new government is tough. Interior Minister Matteo Piandosi (54) is demanding that the countries under whose flags rescue ships pass take responsibility for the boat people. Seizing NGO ships docked in Italy and charging their captains are again under consideration.
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