Global Alternatives 2024
Migration Policy of the Italian Government Against the Background of General EU Policy

Is the migration policy of the Georgia Meloni government part of Italy’s general foreign policy, or is it just part of the foreign policy of the European Union? If the latter is true, then what features of European migration policy are reflected by the migration policy of the Meloni government? Roberta Alonzi, PhD, Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages, Faculty of Philology, Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) answers these questions.

We can say that Italian migration policy has undergone a paradigm shift: from the principle of redistributing migrants within Europe to the task of regulating migration to the region itself. In other words, the paradigm is based on curbing migration. Much greater emphasis is placed on the involvement of third, non-European countries (that is, the “externalisation” of migration issues). From this point of view, the problem of receiving migrants is a matter of international politics; it concerns both Italy’s relations with individual EU members committed to solving this common problem, and Italy’s bilateral relations with countries with which special agreements have been concluded to regulate migration flows.

Italy’s agreement with Albania should be viewed in this light. The agreement was signed by Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on November 6, 2023. It provides for the establishment of two reception centres in Albania where asylum seekers will be housed while their applications are processed. These two centres will be entirely managed by Italy. On January 29, 2024, the Albanian Constitutional Court ruled that the agreement between Rome and Tirana does not violate the territorial integrity of the nation and can therefore be submitted to parliament for final approval.

Regarding relations with other EU members, on the one hand, Italy’s foreign policy reorientation in the field of migration has led to disagreements with the German government. In the fall of 2023, disagreements arose between Italy and Germany over migration issues due to the fact that German-flagged NGO ships were helping migrants reach Italian shores. The difference in approach is obvious: the Italian government considers such ships a provocation factor, attracting more migrants to European shores. Germany disputes this position, arguing that the vessels are essential to saving lives at sea, and even funds them federally. On the other hand, the line supported by Meloni could lead to changes in the migration policies of other EU countries. During a three-day visit to Nigeria in November 2023, Olaf Scholz asked the African country’s President Bola Tinubu to help him cope with a migration surge, proposing a partnership somewhat similar to the one that Italian Prime Minister Meloni initiated with Tunisia in 2023.

Proof of the change in Italian migration policy is the development of the so-called “Mattei Plan” for Africa; its goals are to promote the economic and social development of the African continent and thereby address the deeper roots of illegal migration. This programme was presented at the Italy-Africa Summit in Rome at the end of January 2024.

Norms and Values
Whither International Migration?
Maria Apanovich
Despite decades of positive experience in the reception and integration of migrants, which have been accumulated by modern states, migrants remain a socially vulnerable group. From the exclusively social problems that are typical for all categories of citizens, we are returning to the issue of economics, namely, qualitative forecasting, writes Valdai Club expert Maria Apanovich.

At the moment, the “Mattei Plan” in Italian foreign policy represents a theoretical framework within which Italy’s bilateral relations with certain African states (in particular with the states of North and sub-Saharan Africa) should develop in connection with the regulation of issues of illegal migration and more.

If we look at the situation with migrants in Italy, we can name the following figures. According to the Ministry of the Interior, from January 1 to October 15, 2023, 140,006 migrants arrived on the Italian coast, almost twice as many as in the same period in 2022 (75,471) and three times as many as in 2021 (49,295). According to Meloni, in 2024 arrivals are expected to decline by 41% compared to the same period in 2023.

Thus, we can say that the migration policy of the Meloni government is rather a migration diplomacy, with the help of which they are trying not only to solve an acute problem, but also to strengthen Italy’s role in the international arena in general and in the Mediterranean in particular.

We can say that the features of Italian migration diplomacy reflect the complexities of EU migration policy, as Italy tries to balance between its own approach and the general rules imposed by the EU.

It should be noted that EU migration policy is developed and implemented at two levels: the pan-European and the national ones. The European Union establishes general principles for managing the process, but individual states have to solve specific problems. The current Migration Pact relies on a “mandatory solidarity” mechanism, which is activated when one or more member states come under pressure. Other EU member states can help alleviate the situation in two ways: by resettling a certain number of asylum seekers on their territory, or by paying a cash contribution to finance the reception of migrants in a country under pressure. Funding could also be directed towards measures related to the management of migration flows in non-European countries. However, the concept of mandatory solidarity remains quite controversial.

Similarly, migration diplomacy carried out by the European Union as a unitary political entity faces difficulties. The memorandum of understanding between the EU and Tunisia, signed on July 16, 2023, is an example of the difficulties the European Union has faced in addressing this issue: the number of migrants arriving from the North African country in Italy increased by almost 60 percent in the eight weeks after the agreement, which is significant in itself.

In conclusion, I would like to highlight some points regarding Italian and European migration policy in general.

Italian migration policy:

— The implementation of the “Mattei Plan” for Africa cannot abstract from the general trends in the foreign policy of the Italian government regarding membership in the European Union and the international position of the country. The plan should be structured in the form of agreements with all African states involved in this process, and not focus only on North Africa and sub-Saharan countries. In addition, it is impossible not to take into account the positions of other countries and international associations that play a significant role on the African continent.

— Migration also concerns internal politics and requires a clear and structured management model.

European migration policy:

— It would be necessary for the EU to take a comprehensive approach to Africa, that is, to the grouping of countries directly affected by the phenomenon of migration, an approach that is far from the previous paternalistic formulas, colonial in nature.

— It is also necessary to strengthen the perception of EU states about the existence of a common external border, and on the other hand, to resolve the issue of integration of migrants and the consequences of this for the complex process of forming the identity of the European Union. We are talking about the identity that underlies the consolidation of the pan-European political community in terms of the principle of legitimacy of power, the concept of European citizenship and political identification. Against this background, migration processes introduce a variable that reinforces the inevitability of determining the material and non-material space for the implementation of EU legislative activities. The European Commission identifies key areas of integration policy, but countries have not accepted a single model of integration. For example, in France the model of assimilation and demarginalisation predominates, while in Germany — functional integration and the participation of migrants in society. Italy also has its own approach, but the process of integration of migrants here also encounters many difficulties.

Global Alternatives 2024
The Origins of the Migration Crisis and the Policies of Western Countries
On February 21, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion on international migration in the Mediterranean. Moderator Oleg Barabanov invited participants to consider the topic of international migration, which has remained relevant for many years, taking into account the socio-economic problems in Africa and the Middle East. He also named the observance of human rights and the adaptation of migrants in European countries as important aspects of the topic.
Club events
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.