Calls for help from the German refugee ship Geo Barents after Italy refused to take in those rescued. The boat passengers in Sicily were only allowed to disembark after protests.
Atlantic Alliance, EU values, sanctions against Moscow. During the election campaign, Giorgia Meloni (45 years old) signaled the support and partnership of the Western world. Emmanuel Macron (44) especially hoped to establish good bilateral relations with the first head of the Italian government. But just three weeks after Melonis took office, the neighbors are already facing diplomatic chaos. The reason: the refugee policy of the new right-wing government in Rome.
Both countries want the EU to curb gas prices and provide billions of dollars in additional loans for their own energy and economic crisis – a new aid package rejected by some EU countries, including powerful Germany. Macron chose a strategic alliance with Italy. Thus the French president was also the first foreign head of state to visit the newly appointed Prime Minister in Rome.
Refugee ships thwart Macron’s plans
Then four refugee rescue ships appeared in Italy. And the world remembers, led by Emmanuel Macron, who is actually Giorgia Meloni: the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy and the head of a right-wing populist coalition.
The new government closes ports to rescue ships. Most on board are not persecuted, but immigrants, hence reasoning. After protests across Europe, three ships were finally allowed to dock for “humanitarian reasons”. However, the Ocean Viking of the SOS Méditerranée was sent away. The ship carrying 234 people, having been rescued from the ordeal, then heads for France. It is allowed to dock in Toulon on Friday morning. The boat passengers will be distributed to France, Germany and other EU countries.
First Prime Minister: This is Giorgia Meloni, Italy(00:59)
A letter of thanks causes a scandal
In a public letter, the Italian government thanks France for “the decision to share responsibility for the refugee crisis, which Italy and some other Mediterranean countries had to bear on their own.”
Paris reacts angrily. The acceptance of the Ocean Viking was a one-time gesture that, as French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (40) immediately asserts, Italy acted inhumanely. In June, a solidarity pact was agreed upon at the EU Conference that provided for the voluntary distribution of refugees to EU countries. Accordingly, both France and Germany wanted to receive 3,500 refugees from Italy this year.
It’s over now, Darmanin immediately explained. Germany and other EU countries should suspend the mechanism, the French interior minister is demanding. In addition, Gerald Darmanen sent 500 police officers to the 10 border crossings with Italy to prevent the entry of refugees from Italy.
The reason for the great excitement: President Emmanuel Macron lost an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections in June 2022, and from now on he has to deal with a strong right-wing populist opposition, the National Rally of Marine Le Pen (54). Thus, dealing with refugees is also a tight political act for Macron.
For Georgia Meloni, the scandal comes at an unimaginably bad time. Struggling in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns, Italy is saddled with debt and urgently needs more financial injections from the European Union. But when it comes to refugees, the new government remains tough. Interior Minister Matteo Bentidosi (54) is demanding that countries whose flags transit rescue ships should be responsible for the boat passengers. The seizure of NGO ships docked in Italy and the indictment of their captains are again being considered.
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