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Meloni’s Italy, Tunisia’s only backer, unwillingly

Giorgia Meloni, then leader of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party, wrote the following post on her Facebook wall in October 2017: “a broad pardon in Tunisia has freed from prison thousands of criminals who are now happily moving to Italy with the tacit complicity of the Tunisian authorities and thanks to the usual inertia of the Italian government. The Italian people are sick of being ridiculed: no more landings and no more illegal immigration.”

Having become Prime Minister of Italy in August 2022, the woman whom TV5 Monde called “a young neo-fascist activist” and who “launched her blitz campaign by broadcasting a video of the rape of a Ukrainian woman by an asylum seeker” has apparently taken the measure of the true scale of the problem. It seems that she has taken the measure of the real impact of the migration problem on the economy and society of her country, as is the case of Tunisia, which finds itself economically and financially alone in managing the flow of sub-Saharan

migrants in a situation of severe economic crisis.

Italy tries to move in a more rational direction

On Tuesday, February 28, Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy, which has become Tunisia’s leading trading partner with 3.43 billion euros in trade, called her Tunisian counterpart Najla Bouden.

In the press release issued by Palazzo Chigi, Meloni stressed “the importance of stability and prosperity in Tunisia (…)” and expressed her government’s willingness “to continue supporting Tunisia financially, also within the framework of the European Union and its support for international financial institutions”.

15 days later, and as a signal to take action, his Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Antonio Tajani, mentioned on “Sky.it” for tg4 (minute 3’04”) that “in Tunisia the situation is more complicated [than in Egypt]. We are not indifferent to its financial crisis. We are working hard, with the help of Italy, to persuade the IMF to provide this preventive billion dollars. But the UAE should provide half a billion dollars, which could allow Tunisia to get out of the crisis.”

But it is also true that Italy is preparing a decree that would regulate legal immigration in the country by linking it to agreements against illegal immigration, called “Decreto Flussi 2023”, which it would like to apply to Tunisia.

An Italian intervention in this Tunisian migration crisis that does not seem to please the rest of Europe, so much so that the French newspaper L’Express wrote on March 9, 2023, under the title “Behind the racist drift, the shadow of Giorgia Meloni”, that “the Tunisian president has embarked on a crusade against sub-Saharan migrants… with the blessing of the Italian Prime Minister.”

Speaking about the ‘Decreto Flussi’ in the Italian Senate, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called for a strong European response to support North African countries, especially Tunisia, which is going through an economic crisis.

Referring to what she called “the African exodus towards the Sicilian coast”, Meloni indicated that “Tunisia will face a deep crisis with consequences that could be very worrying, not only for her country”, which is the closest point of access to Europe. She was certainly alluding to the rest of Europe, which could also be affected by the sub-Saharan migratory flows for which Tunisia is the closest point of passage.

Unhappy with Italy and Tunisia, Europe follows US approach

Because it is more directly affected by the waves of illegal immigration, Italy is certainly trying to find solutions with Tunisia. This does not please a Europe that is more concerned and politically annoyed by the political situation than by the Tunisian economic crisis, which could explain its recent so-called racist excesses.

For the time being, Europe is less concerned than Italy about the dangers of illegal immigration, which it denies, and remains chained to the US position. The latter is not happy with what Kaïs Saïed is doing and is trying to influence his July 25 political process by threatening to reduce economic aid to Tunisia.

More concerned about who will rule in Tunisia and how than about the living conditions of a population under economic pressure in a financially exhausted country, the European Foreign Affairs Council has just voted today on a resolution entitled “Recent attacks against freedom of expression and association and trade unions.”

It is true that this is important and that the way in which the Tunisian head of state, Kais Saied, is governing raises questions and concerns. But there is no doubt that the solution to the political crisis depends above all on the solution to the economic and financial crisis faced by Tunisia and which has more exogenous than endogenous causes. Because if the Tunisian people have been developing for several years a political retreat and rejecting a certain political class that failed to get them out of the economic crisis, they will be able to find their true path by returning to the economic opulence of renewed stronger and more job-generating growth. And this is what Europe has not understood, or does not want to understand!


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