Migration, Meloni Fills the Void Amidst Lack of EU Leadership

Politics - October 2, 2023

The migration crisis escalates, yet the EU falls short of offering a common stance, as the latest meeting of EU Interior Ministers shows. While illegal flows landing on the Southern shores of the Union have significantly increased compared to previous years, moving forward the prospects look much worse, not better.

African politics has been recently challenged by a number a coup that highlight, and are the result of, decades of European short-sighted under-engagement with the Continent. In other countries, social unrest is likely to escalate on the back of rising prices and food shortages that Russia has been eagerly contributing to by blocking Ukranian cereal exports. Last but not least, Africa is increasignly affected by adverse climate change developments, despite contributing less than 5 per cent of global carbon emissions. Adding up all these factors, one can easily conclude that the current crisis may further escalate if proportional remedial actions are not put forward at the Union-level.

Within the EU, lack of leadership has fuelled an electoral debate mostly seen through the lenses of burden-sharing, as illegal migrants tend to land on the Southern flank of the Union – how to share the costs of that. More salient questions as to how much capacity the EU has to integrate, not just provisionally welcoming, newly-arriving migrants, what is the desidered skill-mix we need and so on – that is, a proper migration policy – have become second-order, if at all.

In that setting, the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, and ECR President, has been trying to fill the void through a three-pronged strategy. She has been in talks with Tunisia, a country with its own challenges, but one where the latest waves of migrants have been departing from, with the aim of finding common ground. In doing that, she has tried to involve multilateral institutions like the IMF and the European Commission at its highest level.

At short notice, Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission President, joined her in Tunis and, most recently, in the small, but crucial, island of Lampedusa where many of these desperate illegal migrants land on. This is hardly a national approach, but one that is mindful of the politics on the ground and the need for a broader, more inclusive EU-based solution. Admittedly, it may work or not. But if it does not, then none can claim that she did not try.