Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told a press conference on Friday that “I consider myself extremely satisfied” with the outcome of the European Council summit. She said the document with the summit’s conclusions “is a great victory for Italy”.
Meloni also said she had been right to accuse French President Emanuel Macron of splitting the united EU front against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by holding what she termed an “inopportune” three-way summit with President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris Wednesday night.
“Very important steps forward have been taken on some particularly delicate issues,” Meloni said. “I am very satisfied about the issue of migrants.
“Yesterday a principle was established. The approach is changing to one that is very different to what there has been in recent years.
“This approach is put down in black and white by a sentence that it had never been possible to put down before: ‘immigration is an EU problem and needs an EU response”.
A matter for union not geography
Italy has long argued that, given its geographical position at the centre of the Mediterranean, the current EU system places too much burden on it. Currently, the country where asylum seekers arrive have the job of processing claims.
At the European Council summit, the leaders also agreed to on the need to pay more attention to controlling and protecting the bloc’s external border. They also recognised the specific nature of the sea border, something which Italy had been calling for.
Meloni said she was looking for a deal with North Africa to keep migrants there. It would be similar to the €6billion deal the EU cut with Turkey a few years ago.
Meloni defends criticism of Macron
The PM further said domestic criticism of her chiding Macron had been “provincial”. She called Wednesday’s meeting in Paris between France, Germany and Ukraine “inopportune”. Meloni reiterated her view that the three-way Paris meet had been “politically wrong”.
She said “when Italy disagrees, it must say so”. Being in photo-ops was not enough for Rome, she said, stressing that Italy had to be on the inside in any major talks.
Despite the row, the PM said ties with Paris were “not compromised” after domestic critics spoke of a newly “frosty” relationship with Macron.
Deputy PM and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini, League leader and chief ally of Meloni’s rightwing Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, said “Macron’s snottiness is incomprehensible” after the French president was quick to snap back shortly after Meloni’s remark. The French leader had said, “France and Germany have a special role in supporting Ukraine.”
Meloni met Zelensky in Brussels on Thursday and reaffirmed Italy’s unswerving support for Kyiv. She said on Friday that Italy would “soon” send a surface to air missile system to Ukraine along with France to provide a key shield against Russian missile attacks.