Commentary. For Giorgia Meloni, war, misery, exploitation, climate crisis, famine are mere words, other people's problems; she doesn’t see them as pointing to concrete tragedies, let alone any in which we bear responsibility.

Giorgia Meloni’s UN speech, an unsteady balancing act on barbed wire

Giorgia Meloni’s speech at the UN Assembly was somewhere between rhetoric and propaganda, clueless as to the history of the current Western role in the domination of the African continent and the history of imperialist wars, and showing a paradoxical, clumsy and hypocritical attempt to walk a tightrope between sovereignist ideology and the call for multipolarism.

Her speech was built on the pillars of unconditionally siding with Ukraine, the victim of invasion – just as the conflict with Poland was coming, which decided to stop sending arms to Kyiv – and that of a hopefully reassuring push for the phantasmagorical “Mattei Plan” for Africa, a phoenix that is supposed to rise from its ashes, nonexistent but which everyone is talking about.

At the center, of course, is the issue of migration, for which Italy has become the spokesperson, having invented a whole national emergency. However, for at least two decades, the tragic core of this issue has already been multipolar and international in nature. In Africa and Asia, but also elsewhere, the lives of migrants have been confined to concentration facilities that we might call ghost towns inhabited by millions: in Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Nigeria, South Africa, the Middle East, Bangladesh.

The UN – which some say is no longer enough, which must “either change or die” – is managing these situations as well as it can through the UNHCR, after the powerful of the earth have decided that the migrants must be relegated to such concentration camps. Many of these countries have long raised the issue of migration as decisive for their stability and security.

Giorgia Meloni is late to join that party, bringing a staid recipe for a “world war on traffickers” – who, it is worth recalling, profit from the real, justified desperation of many millions of people, as long as no one in the “developed” West, which measures its greater well-being according to GDP and wealth figures, wants to open the doors to them.

Meloni is ignorant of all of this. On the contrary, she literally calls for rejecting “ the utopist and self-serving narrative of those who say that a world without Nations, without borders and without identity, would be a world without war and conflict” – but wasn’t abolishing borders a step forward for the new Europe?

And this is because “nations,” “identities,” and “communities of destiny” must come first, notions dear to the neocons, and especially to their comrade-in-arms Steve Bannon. Meloni said that the world, gathered together at the UN, must remember that this institution was “fundamental to definitively eradicating the universal crime of slavery,” and therefore must take up arms against “its comeback in other forms,” the human trafficker “slave-traders.”

At the same time, she stresses that Russia’s war on Ukraine – in which Italy has sided with the latter due to the fact that this war is the insurance policy of its pro-Atlantic government and without any diplomatic commitment to peace – is also having repercussions on Africa, as the war is blocking “exports of grain – the raw material needed to feed millions of people.”

To make it clear that reality is far more complex, just hours after her speech at the UN, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki (Poland being the most important hub of NATO arms shipments) said the country was “not sending any more” weapons to Kyiv, in reaction against grain agreements that would impose forced imports of Ukrainian grain, at a politically-set price, into many Eastern countries (not only Visegrad ones), thus endangering their own agricultural exports. Already at the end of April, Warsaw was saying yes to sending arms but no to importing grain – now war solidarity has been overruled by the latter.

The fact is that for Giorgia Meloni, war, misery, exploitation, climate crisis, famine are mere words, other people’s problems; she doesn’t see them as pointing to concrete tragedies, let alone any in which we bear responsibility. These are what millions of human beings are fleeing from, for whom new constellations of concentration camps are being prepared across civilized Europe, with the Italian government leading the way.

On the subject of imperialist wars, Meloni said “we thought we had done away” with them “in the past century.” As it happens, this century, before the Russian aggression on Ukraine, there were bloody wars in Afghanistan in 2001, in Iraq in 2003, in Libya in 2011 and in Syria from 2015, all with our direct responsibility. They were in violation of international law and resulted in millions of refugees, as well as hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and crimes for which no court has ever been set up to hold anyone accountable.

The Italian Prime Minister has also made the discovery that Africa “is not a poor continent,” but rich in raw materials, and unfortunately “exploited.” Truly a groundbreaking realization. Furthermore, she kept silent about the fact that it was Western colonial nationalism, the “nations” so dear to her, that exploited it. How much arrogance can the Italian Prime Minister have to rewrite the history of Africa and erase the truth? So many African leaders who would have had more right to speak at the UN about all the stolen wealth were killed in the emancipation from colonial and neocolonial exploitation, not to mention the “predatory” attitude of our model of development, production and consumption.

But one need not worry, now it’s time for the “Mattei Plan” (perhaps it’s time to go back and learn how Mattei was killed), for a new “cooperation from equal to equal.” Equal how? “We have the technology and banking, they have the raw materials” is not equality, it’s the same depredation as always. And one wonders whether Italy is supposed to do it alone, or in competition with France, the U.K. and Germany which will have their own “Mattei plans,” while pragmatic China has already been making the investments.

We might also ask ourselves, what if the countries of Africa were the ones to propose a “Mattei plan” -perhaps to be called the “Lumumba Plan” or the “Sankara Plan” – to Italy, Europe and the world, without Meloni’s intermediation? What if, in short, Africa (or rather, the many Africas) were to really decide on its own model of development, until now centered on and subordinate to the extractivist needs dictated by us? Like most intellectuals in the sub-Saharan countries, Africa no longer believes in help coming from the kindness of anyone’s heart; they know that what Meloni is talking about doesn’t help democracy, either African or Italian, in the face of a colonial responsibility that has never been settled. Four years ago, Maurizio Marchi and Paola Caforio published a book with the title Quanto l’Europa deve restituire all’Africa (“How much Europe should give back to Africa”) – a very different approach than “let’s help them at home,” where we’ve “helped” them enough. It outlines a sort of “Nuremberg trial” for the European misdeeds of colonialism and neo-colonialism, and arrives at an estimated figure of $70 trillion in reparations for the slave trade, wars of aggression suffered, unequal exchange of goods and prices set by the West, genocides against defenseless or resistant populations, all the way up to the current emigration. Will the “Mattei Plan” be anything like that? It doesn’t look like it.

For now, we only have the announcements of agreements, including military ones – already on the verge of failure, despite the EU support – with undemocratic and xenophobic regimes, like Tunisia, and nonexistent ones, like Libya, for the detention of migrants according to the Minniti model: the important thing is that they don’t arrive here. There’s more and more of the stench of colonialism that never left: from the memory of fascist concentration camps in Cyrenaica to the new detention camps in Tripoli.

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