France recently announced its intention to collaborate with Italy to stem the flow of illegal migration. The news comes on the heels of a months-long bitter policy argument between the two countries, most recently stoked by conflict over the NGO ship, the Ocean Viking. Now, however, the two countries will collaborate in managing migration from Libya and Tunisia beginning this month.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi announced the joint venture at a press conference after a bilateral meeting in Paris with the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin. Darmanin tweeted a picture of him shaking hands with Piantedosi and emphasised the need for better-controlled migratory flows. Piantedosi agreed, emphasising the necessity for France and Italy to face “serious epochal problems with shared and common methodologies.” In particular, he mentioned shared “methodologies for repatriation.”
The move is particularly surprising coming from Darmanin, who labelled Giorgia Meloni’s government as an “enemy of France” last autumn. Darmanin was echoing his liberal president, Emmanuel Macron, who declared Meloni to be “inhumane” for refusing to accept the NGO ship Ocean Viking. Meloni responded by lambasting France for its neocolonial policies in Africa.
The proposal is also unexpected, given that Italy and France have had differences in the past when it comes to North Africa, such as supporting opposite sides in the frozen Libyan Civil War. More recently, Italy has been stepping on France’s toes by signing gas deals with Algeria and Libya. Nonetheless, the migration crisis has brought the two countries together to help countries like Tunisia stem trans-Saharan migration.
The French government will need to work hard to establish credibility when it comes to immigration. A recently proposed immigration bill has faced opposition from both the Left and the Right, indicating a lack of faith in the government’s ability to handle migration. Additionally, analysis shows that illegal immigrants are now more likely to be regularised than deported. With figures like Eric Zemmour accusing Macron of only wanting to facilitate mass migration, it is essential for the French government to demonstrate a clear, coherent, and effective approach to immigration policy.
While the move may be a tactical and temporary move on the part of the French government, the collaboration between Paris and Rome looks set to continue for the time being. As Europe continues to face a migration surge, the alliance between the two countries marks a significant step towards managing the crisis.