Whatever the Italian government – political instability is always the order of the day on the peninsula – there are two problems that it must face today and that internal borders are not resolved. First, immigration. Second: energy.
Italy, along with Spain and Greece, is the gateway for all those fleeing misery in their countries of origin in Africa and the Middle East, who make up the majority of immigration. Also for those who suffer some kind of political, racial or religious persecution.
From Libya and Tunisia set sail the boats -particularly precarious- that transport those who yearn for a better life. Some reach their destination. Many are rescued by boats rented by different humanitarian NGOs. Others, in no lesser number, shipwrecked during the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.
For Italy, also for Greece, Malta and Cyprus, European legislation is responsible. No, because it is not restrictive. Yes, because it is not supportive. Italy, like Cyprus, Greece and Malta, are members of the European Union and, as such, have a restricted margin to deal with the issue alone.
The problem then lies in the fact that, up to now, the 27 countries of the European Union have never agreed to establish percentage quotas for the reception of migrants by each one of them.
Giorgia Meloni (45 years old), born in Rome, a journalist by profession, of the Catholic faith and leader of the Brothers of Italy party (Fratelli d’Italia), after comfortably winning the legislative elections of September 2022 is the new president of the Council of ministers of Italy from October 2, 2022.
The new head of government has been a deputy since 2006. She was Youth Minister for three years with Silvio Berlusconi as president of the Council of Ministers. In 2013, she created Brothers of Italy, a party that many describe as eurosceptic, populist, anti-immigration, fascist edge, anti-abortionist and anti-gay marriage.
Not so, so Not very, very. On some issues, it is not willing to compromise, although without breaking away, in particular, with the European Union. It is the already seen case of illegal immigration. For Meloni, a militant Catholic, the advance of immigration will inevitably lead to the Islamization of Europe.
From there, the search for a European solution that, for now, would go through the implementation of quotas for each of the 27 members. But, although prudent, Meloni seems to be willing, on this subject, to go further. She is not strange, in this regard, the idea of a naval blockade of the peninsula in charge of her own Navy.
Unlike the British Conservatives, Meloni and the Italian Brothers are not Eurosceptics. Yes, on the other hand, they are supporters of the confederal vision that, at the time, was defended by the former French president, General Charles De Gaulle.
For the new head of government, it is a matter of defending the sovereignty of the member countries at the economic, security and immigration levels. She explains that there is a huge range of intermediate positions between leaving the European Union and the euro and “total submission to German and French interests.”
She is an Atlanticist (NATO), a supporter of arms supplies to Ukraine, although in the past she praised Vladimir Putin. But when her ally, Silvio Berlusconi, brought up her friendship with the Russian chief, Meloni cut him out. Models for her are the British Conservative Party, the US Republican and the Israeli Likud.
In political matters, he proposes several changes, such as the election of the President of the Republic through universal suffrage, the abolition of the status of senator for life and the incorporation into the Constitution of a “ceiling” for fiscal voracity.
In socioeconomic matters, it is no stranger to moderate interventionism on the part of the State on the market and although, as has been said, it presents itself as opposed to abortion and homosexual marriage, it affirms that it will not modify the current laws.
When he presented his government, Meloni made more than one European leader sigh with relief. It is that the key ministries, such as Foreign Affairs, Europe and the Economy, fell to personalities with administrative and political experience, all of them moderate and pro-European.
Of course, to reach the parliamentary majority, although Brothers of Italy is the first force, Meloni must compromise with two “annoying” allies; the named and stainless Silvio Berlusconi and the extremist Matteo Salvini. Neither of them get key positions.
But the question of the moment is whether Meloni and the Italian Brothers are fascists. For the Dutch political scientist Matthijs Rooduijn, decidedly not, even if his roots stem from Italian fascism or German neo-Nazism as is the case with the Sweden Democrats.
For Rooduijn, there are three elements that characterize them -also the French extreme right-, namely: nativism, authoritarianism and populism. Nativism is a nationalism based on exclusion. Thus, those who belong to another religion, to another ethnic group, or who are immigrants are not part of the nation.
Announcements and retractions
To whoever wants to listen, the president of the Council of Ministers Giorgia Meloni announces that the central concern of her government will be economic growth. The first litmus test for her is the adoption of the budget for the year 2023. Affected by the pandemic and the ensuing recession, Italy needs to grow. And to grow, funds from the European Union are needed. In particular the 200 billion euros of the Recovery Plan for Europe.
So, pragmatism foolproof. Not in words, but in deeds. For example, in budget matters. Of the strong campaign announcements, at least for the 2023 budget, nothing remained. The brand new head of government is more than willing to do all the duties that the European Union tells her in pursuit of the funds of the Recovery Plan for Europe, on the other, she exhibits total independence, read rejection, with respect to the European Mechanism of Stability (MONTH).
It is a program of assistance to euro zone countries in economic difficulties. Created in 2012, it was applied in Greece in 2015 and contributed to recovering stability in the Hellenic country. Of course, at a huge social price that translated into unemployment and loss of purchasing power of salaries and pensions.
The current conditions for receiving MES funds are just as drastic as then. The Italian GDP deficit warrants an austerity treatment that Giorgia Meloni does not seem predisposed to give, beyond the concessions in the 2023 Budget.
Italy is the only country in Europe whose Parliament did not ratify the 2021 treaty that reinforces the role of the MES. The respective debate that will take place soon in the legislative chambers has a prior and clear rejection by the head of government who considers it as an instrument of the Nordic countries to impose stability on the southerners.
In this regard, one of the issues that complicate Italian macroeconomic stability is energy, a true by-product of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To date, 40% of the electricity that the country consumes comes from renewable sources such as hydroelectric, solar, wind, bioenergy or geothermal. Although it is a very high percentage compared to the rest of Europe, it does not exempt the dependence on oil and gas, particularly the latter, for power generation. A dependence on Russian hydrocarbons that was mitigated through the agreements that the previous government, headed by Mario Draghi, reached with nearby Algeria.
The TransMed gas pipeline, managed by the Italian oil company Eni and its Algerian partner Sonatrach, which links both countries through Tunisia, is capable of increasing the injection of Algerian gas destined for Italy by up to 40%.
In short, Italy managed to reverse the order of its gas imports. Before, around 40% came from Russia and 28% from Algeria. Now, it’s the other way around. And diversify sources with Bulgaria, Romania and Nigeria as suppliers, plus the novelty of an agreement with Mozambique.
The efforts and achievements of Italy to move towards renewable energy are not understood by small groups of environmental “militants” who claim who knows what with direct actions such as pouring paint or tomato sauce on works of art in the main Italian museums. For now, on top of the glass that protects them.
His victims: La Scala in Milan; a work by the plastic artist Andy Warhol, also in Milan; a work by Vincent Van Gogh in Rome; to name the last three. They should know that there is no end that justifies the means.
Italy, along with Spain and Greece, is the gateway for all those fleeing misery in their countries of origin in Africa and the Middle East.
Italy, the country where the extreme right is not so extreme with Giorgia Meloni in power