The game is on for the resetting of European balances, which will take concrete form at the 2024 European elections, both in individual countries and at the continental level. In Italy, there are clashes especially among allies of the right-wing government. This competition could have consequences not only in terms of how loud the propaganda gets, but also on concrete decisions. And while Matteo Salvini is teaming up with the far-right of Le Pen and the AfD, Giorgia Meloni has certainly not abandoned her sovereignist “friends” either.
Last week in Brussels, the premier, who’d had no hesitation to call the agreement on migrants in the European Council’s draft conclusions a “memorable” one, soon found herself in a predicament. The chapter on migrants ended up expunged from the conclusions because Poland’s Morawiecki and Hungary’s Orbán objected to the content and the manner in which the Migration Pact had been approved, which calls for a subsidy of €20,000 for each migrant not relocated by individual countries. And Meloni’s mediation attempt amounted to nothing at all. “We agree to disagree,” Morawiecki had commented, wishing good luck to the leader of FdI – which sounded like a slap in the face, confirming a split in the sovereignist front.
Nonetheless, Meloni herself, writing on Tuesday in the Corriere della Sera, used that very phrase to downplay the incident and leave open the prospect of an alliance in Europe between the European Conservatives (ECR) Group, of which she is president, which includes Morawiecki’s PiS, and the EPP.
“In the Council, each represents the interests of their own nation and each does well to defend their own. The position of Poland and Hungary does not change anything in our relations,” while “we agree to disagree on this marginal issue.” Translated, this means “it’s normal for everyone to pursue their own interest.” So, in essence, the Italian Prime Minister is defending the pre-eminent “national interest” of others even when it goes against the interest of her own “nation.” This is only an apparent contradiction, because the reasoning corresponds precisely to the FdI leader’s idea of Europe: the Europe of nations, that is, of nationalisms. Even at the cost of coming into conflict with the nationalism of one’s closest allies –that is, if what happened in Brussels actually amounted to that at all.
Because the premier also made it clear that in her view, the Migration and Asylum Pact that Italy also voted for is not an “effective solution.” For Meloni, “the priority is to stop the illegal flows before they leave,” not “managing arrivals.” So it makes sense that when she spoke about a “memorable agreement,” the Italian premier was not referring to the relocations, which she has always considered a non-priority, but to the so-called “external dimension,” the part of migration policy that is concerned not with welcoming those who arrive in Europe, but with preventing arrivals by all means. A line that is now prevalent in the EU, and shared in every way by the current Italian government, Poland and Hungary: the notion of “fortress Europe.”
If there was a real rift at all, on Friday in Brussels Meloni should find a way to mend it, especially with Morawiecki (with whom there is also a solid common front regarding Ukraine’s defense): the two will meet in the coming days in Warsaw for the ECR summit, and the Italian will be able to throw her rhetorical weight around in support of Poland’s (and Hungary’s) positions, also regarding European contributions for the reception of Ukrainian refugees and the infringement procedures opened by the EU. Warsaw will provide ample opportunity to rail in unison about issues such as the (strictly heterosexual) “family” or the French riots (all supposedly the fault of irregular immigration).
In short, despite the Brussels stumble, the sovereignist ideological axis remains solid. Regardless of appearances, it has never changed and never will. And the figure of the cautious “mediator” Giorgia Meloni, dressed in pastel tones, turns out to have very little credibility: all the more so now that at home, Matteo Salvini is off to the races for the 2024 European elections and is openly challenging her.