Meloni is incapable of defending Europe’s border, claims French interior minister

FILE - France's Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU interior ministers at the European Council in Brussels on Thursday, March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

A diplomatic storm is brewing between France and Italy after French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin accused the Italian government of being incapable of defending its borders.

A scheduled trip to Paris by Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani risked being canceled following the disparaging remarks made about Giorgia Meloni’s administration.

Speaking on Thursday, Darminin accused Meloni of leading “an extreme right-wing government” that allies with French firebrand nationalist Marine Le Pen, and said “she is incapable of solving the migratory problems for which she was elected.”

The comments have sparked outrage in Rome with Italian diplomats calling for a “decisive and definitive” retraction from the French authorities of the “offensive and totally unacceptable” remarks.

Darmanin further accused Meloni of failing to prevent “an influx of migrating people and particularly children” from heading towards France’s southeastern border with Italy.

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The migration crisis on Italy’s southern border is rapidly increasing with reports of thousands of new arrivals from the African continent landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa each day.

Rome has called on European countries without an external EU border to take more action and share the responsibility for handling the crisis; it has also demanded extra funding from Brussels to cope with the problem.

Speaking recently at the European University Institute of Fiesole, Tajani said, “Together we must address the great issue of migration. It is a historic theme. Only a united Europe can play an important role on the African continent, not through the lens of the colonizers but through the lens of the Africans. And each European state must give its contribution.”

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A refusal by France to share the burden has led to growing tensions between French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government and Meloni’s conservative coalition, and Darmanin’s remarks are the latest in the deterioration of the political relationship between the countries.

Last November, the French government was incensed by the decision taken by the Italian authorities to prevent the French-chartered humanitarian Ocean Viking rescue ship carrying 230 migrants from docking in an Italian port. French officials criticized what it called “unacceptable behavior” before reluctantly allowing the boat to dock in Marseille.

“I believe that in Europe the same rights and duties of everyone must apply, I believe that the solution that can make everyone agree is to stop departures and defend the European borders,” Meloni said at the time, criticizing France for expecting Italy “to do what others are not willing to do.”

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