Why the Meloni government’s new “Mattei Plan” will not make Italy a truly relevant player in the Mediterranean scenario

da: Redazione
8 February 2023

The new Italian government  took office in a very complicated international context. Since taking office,in fact, the new executive has not yet succeeded in proposing a policy line in the sign of discontinuity from previous governments and precedents related to the North African scenario-and it will not-for several reasons.


Italy’s main foreign policy directives in North Africa are essentially two: fight against immigration and energy diversification. Immigration is a problem for our country today, although it cannot in itself be considered a threat “strictu sensu”; in fact, this term refers to an event or fact that can destabilize the geopolitical actor that suffers the consequences. A classic example of this type of situation is the phenomenon of terrorism.

Italy is indeed a destination for many migratory flows, but many of these consider the Peninsula as a transit stop to regions in Northern Europe. Moreover, the number of illegal immigrants that Italy hosts, in relation to the total population, is lower than those in France, Germany, Spain, Poland and many other European countries. So, to speak of a threat appears excessive. However, a problem related to migration flows is there and a solution must be found. Between saying and doing – as they say – there is a middle of the sea. The migration issue depends on multiple factors, which Rome is (today) unable to change.

The main one has an exquisitely political dimension: the countries from which migrants originate are, de facto, de failed states, i.e., countries where the central government has no control over territory or even borders; this is the case in Libya, Mali, Niger or Sudan. Not surprisingly, last November 2, the Memorandum of Understanding between Libya and Italy regarding the migration issue was automatically renewed for another three years. This was because, without the possibility of dialogue with an effective and efficient interlocutor, it is impossible to stop the phenomenon related to these flows. As long as the North African country is in the condition it is in, the human hemorrhage of migrants cannot be stopped.

The other major reason why Italy today is unable to put a curb on migration flows is the role that Turkey and Russia play in North Africa and the Sahel. Their presence in these territories makes it impossible to establish solid unitary states. The coast of Tripolitania is under the control of Ankara, which thus keeps the Belpaese and other coastal states of Southern Europe under blackmail, threatening to “open the taps” of migratory flows.” Until Italy resumes being the most influential actor in the area, the situation will not change, and this will not happen either in the short or in the medium term, since the confrontation with Erdogan is played out in the military dimension, the so-called hard power, and in this field Rome is not able to compete (considering that the Turkish Armed Forces are the second largest NATO military contingent after the United States).

Energy and (illusion of) prominence in the Mediterranean:

The past few weeks have seen PM Meloni and other members of the government make diplomatic trips to Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon. The stated goal is not only to achieve energy security through diversification of supply sources, but also to make Italy an energy hub in the Mediterranean. This, too, is a goal that is unlikely to be realized, and for internal and external reasons.

Brothers of Italy  has been the party that in recent years has insisted on the need to “restore centrality to the Mediterranean in Italian policies.” With the birth of the new government, a Ministry for Sea and Southern Policies was initially created, but it was short-lived. Already with the Council of Ministers of November 10, it underwent a renaming to Ministry for Civil Protection and Sea Policies, as well as a reduction of its competencies, with the delegation to the South being transferred to the Ministry headed by Raffaele Fitto (European Affairs). In addition, the ministry is headed by a minister without a portfolio, and thus has limited room for maneuver. The result of this is the fact that, once again, Italy finds itself without an administrative apparatus capable of coordinating sea policies as a whole (as opposed to France).

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