Right now it is clear that the tectonic plates of EU politics are shifting. Slowly the political class in Brussels and in the major member states like France and Germany are beginning to wake up.
There are two significant issues being faced by the European Union. Climate Change/Net Zero and Immigration/Security.
Up until now the political class have had their entire focus on the former and have regarded any discussion of the latter as beyond the pale, racist if you will. For decades parties of the populist right have made great play on the issue of immigration, indeed it led, in a large part to the shock of the Brexit vote in 2016, but that was merely a democratic blip in the firmament. Now however things really are beginning to shift.
The thing is they are begging to shift not because of the bald facts, if facts had mattered there would be no climate change agenda, no drive towards economic penury dressed up as virtue and Net Zero. If facts had mattered then there would have been serious attempts to do something about the migrant crisis in 2016, rather than waving millions in as the then German Chancellor, Angela Merkle did.
But now something has changed, and that something is the recent growth in parties that are explicitly anti mass immigration. For decades those who tried to use democratic means to oppose migration were belittled and ignored. In Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, the European Parliament and elsewhere what was described as a “Cordon Sanitaire” were imposed. The very name itself gives the impression that those opposed to migration were in some way dirty or unhealthy, it was first used to describe a military attempt to stop the spread of infectious diseases, which is pretty much the attitude of most people in authority in the almost liberal West.
Of all the recent elections which have blown apart this political moral barrier the most important so far is that of Georgia Meloni in Italy. She and her Brothers of Italy party won the Italian elections handsomely in 2022, and her electoral platform was pretty much exclusively based on an anti immigration platform. Before the election she made her basic political philosophy pretty crystal clear, "Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology. No to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders. No to mass migration, no to big international finance, no to the bureaucrats of Brussels."
She also stated, 'The problem of migrant arrivals on our shores must be tackled at its source, with a "naval blockade", fraising the political ante and causing her opponents of calling for a policy that would be tantamount to a declaration of war (on who, I couldn’t say, but if it was on the people traffickers then the public of Ita;ly didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
Seen as standard bearer the question is if the Meloni of campaigning and a strong line has become something very different in office.
Despite this rhetoric on being elected she has tacked to the centre chilled previous friendships with the EU’s perennial bad boy, Victor Orban of Hungary and historic positive ties to Putin.
But it is on her approach to immigration that the changes are strongest. Today she is, at least in public, working closely with the EU. The Eu wants to co-opt the standard bearer of the popular right, and a few days in September when 8,000 migrants arrived on Italy’s tiny island of Lampedusa in September allowed both sides to appeal to their own audiences.
Meloni invited European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to visit the island whose native population had been more than doubled over three days, There Meloni was able to bounce the Commission into backing her plan (and covering part of the cost) of those plans, her comments were to the point,
“If anyone thinks that this crisis we are facing could be just resolved within Italian borders, it would be a very big mistake, because this problem involves everyone and needs to be tackled by everyone, I continue to say that we will never resolve it by talking only about redistribution– the only way to resolve it is to stop departures.”
Meanwhile the EU could be seen to have brought the enfant terrible into the fold. Von der Leyen offered support to Italy having already signed a deal with them to help fund the Tunisian authorities to the tune of $100m. The problem is that this new influx happened after the deal was signed and 127,000 have arrived in Italy in 2023 alone.
Since then this odd couple have continued to work together. In November Meloni signed a deal with the Albanian authorities to set up a processing centre for illegals on the other side of the Adriatic sea. This will cost Italy another $100m plus all associated costs. This agreement too needed the agreement of the European Union to be ratified.
Despite this shift to the centre, the Italy of Meloni is still seen as a paradigm across the continent. The Cordon sanitaire is breaking down with the Swedish Democrats being admitted to Government. The elections in Austria, Slovakia, Finland and most recently, and eye-catchingly in the Netherlands are forging and strongly anti-migration consensus amongst the peoples of Europe, December’s polling in Germany now had the AFD second, with the old centre right becoming increasingly strident in its positioning.
It has been a very long time since Italy led public opinion in Europe, but it looks like where it goes, Brussels will follow.
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