Days after closing a deal with Albania to hold part of the migrant flood there while awaiting asylum processing, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is trying to limit the number of arrivals in the first place, by a new partnership with Africa.
She unveiled a long-awaited plan to ‘boost economic ties, create an energy hub for Europe and curb immigration’.
More than two dozen African leaders attended the one-day summit, where Meloni outlined a series of initiatives with an initial pledge of 5.5 billion euros ($5.95 billion).
Meloni called the summit a success, that ‘produced many areas of potential cooperation, particularly with regards to energy’.
“‘We are only at the beginning, there is a very long road ahead of us. This day is a restart’, she said in her closing remarks.”
Head of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat and emphasised the need to honor commitments.
“‘I want to insist here on the need to move from words to actions. You can well understand that we can no longer be satisfied with mere promises that are often not kept’, he said, standing alongside Meloni in Italy’s ornate Senate.
In a news conference after the summit, Meloni acknowledged that it was important now to ensure that work began to deliver projects that would make a difference on the ground.”
Italy cannot compete with China, Russia and the Gulf states in terms of economic power, and they are all trying to tap Africa’s natural resources.
“Energy needs lie at the heart of the initiative, with Rome looking to serve as a gateway into European markets for natural gas from Africa that has become vital after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made diversification of supplies a priority for the EU.”
Italy has already countered lower Russian supplies by shipping increased volumes from Africa.
Meloni wants to boost industry and agriculture in Africa to strengthen local economies, preventing young Africans from wanting to migrate north.
157k boat migrants reached Italy last year, wrecking Meloni’s pledge to halt the flow of illegal arrivals.
“‘Mass immigration will never be stopped, human traffickers will never be defeated if we do not address the many causes that push a person to leave their home’, Meloni told the summit. ‘This is exactly what we intend to do’.”
“Meloni, who came to power in 2022 on an anti-migrant ticket, has vowed to reshape relations with African countries by avoiding the ‘predatory’ approaches of the past in favour of one inspired by Enrico Mattei, founder of Italy’s state-owned energy giant Eni.
[…] Meloni said the Italian plan would start with a series of pilot schemes – from modernizing grain production in Egypt to purifying water in Ethiopia and providing training in renewable energies in Morocco – with the aim of then extending them across the continent.”
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the plan as ‘complementary’ to the European Union’s Africa package worth €150 billion.
“Meloni wants to transform Italy into an energy gateway, capitalizing on demand from fellow European countries seeking to slash their dependence on Russian gas following Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.”
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