Italian Prime Minister Meloni’s Africa plan trades energy investments for curbs on migration

by MMC
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Far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni received African leaders on Monday to discuss her long-awaited development plan for Africa, which she said avoids a “predatory” approach but which critics nonetheless criticize. on guard in favor of European priorities. Among other initiatives, Meloni’s plan seeks to swap energy investments for African efforts to curb migration.

Far-right leader Meloniwho came to power in 2022 on an anti-migrant slate, has pledged to reshape relations with African countries by avoiding the “predatory” approaches of the past in favor of a single country. inspired by Enrico Matteifounder of the Italian energy giant Eni.

Plan says Mattei hopes to position Italy as a country key bridge between Africa and Europechanneling energy to the North in exchange for investment in agreements aimed at curbing the departure of migrants across the world. Mediterranean Sea.

Meloni said the plan would initially be financed to the tune of 5.5 billion euros ($5.9 billion), part of which would be loans, with investments focused on the energy, agriculture, water, health and education.

Meloni said the summit was a success that gave rise to many areas of potential cooperation, particularly in energy.

“We are only at the beginning, there is a very long road ahead of us. This day is a reboot,” she said in her closing speech.

However, there was a note of discord from some in attendance, with Moussa Faki MahamatChairperson of the African Union Commission, said he would have liked Africa to be consulted first on priorities and stressed the need to honor its commitments.

“I want to emphasize here the need to move from words to action. You understand well that we can no longer be satisfied with simple promises which are often not kept,” he said alongside Meloni in the ornate Italian Senate building.

At a press conference after the summit, Meloni acknowledged the importance of ensuring work begins on projects that will make a difference on the ground.

“As equals”

Representatives from more than 25 countries attended the summit – dubbed “A Bridge for Common Growth” – at the Italian Senate on Monday, alongside the president of the European Commission. Ursula von der Leyen and representatives of United Nations agencies and the world Bank.

Meloni told them that the “destinies” of Europe and Africa were linked and that she was determined to continue cooperation “on an equal footing, far from any predatory temptation, but also from this charitable approach of Africa, unsuitable for its extraordinary development potential. .

Rome holds the presidency of the G7 group of nations this year and pledged to make Africa’s development a central theme, in part to increase its influence on a continent where key nations such as Russia, China, India, Japan and Turkey have expanded their political influence.

Summit comes just months after Russia held its own summit with African leaders. Other countries, including China and France, have launched similar initiatives.

Critics have said heavily indebted Italy cannot hope to compete with countries like China, Russia and the Gulf states, all of which are seeking to strengthen their presence in Africa, home to many of the world’s natural resources.

There were no references to Italy’s colonial past in Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and what is now Somalia.

Learn moreItaly plays on a historic nerve with Algeria to strengthen its essential energy ties

Guests included the Tunisian president Kaïs SaïedSenegalese president Macky Sall as well as the presidents of Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Algeria, Chad, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo were represented by ministers.

Meloni said the Italian plan would start with a series of pilot projects – from modernizing grain production in Egypt to water purification in Ethiopia and renewable energy training in Morocco – with the aim of then expanding them to the entire continent.

Von der Leyen called the plan “complementary” to the European Union’s Africa plan, unveiled in 2022 and worth 150 billion euros.

Meloni wants to transform Italy into an energy gateway, capitalizing on demand from other European countries seeking to reduce their dependence on Russian gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Critics of the plan say it appears too focused on fossil fuels and instead call for a renewable energy effort to meet the needs of more than 40 percent of Africans who have no access to energy.

‘Deadly’

Meloni, leader of the postfascist movement Brothers of Italy party, and its main coalition partner Matteo Salvini of the far-right League, have pledged to prevent migrant boats arriving in Europe from North Africa.

But landings in Italy have indeed increased from around 105,000 in 2022 to almost 158,000 in 2023.

African Union President Azali Assoumani said it was “essential that we work in complete synergy… to put an end to the often deadly migratory flows of Africans who have lost all hope of freedom in their respective countries on the continent”.

The central Mediterranean, between North Africa and Italy, is the deadliest migrant crossing in the world.

Nearly 100 people have already died or disappeared in the central and eastern Mediterranean since the start of 2024, the International Organization for Migration said on Monday.

Learn moreA decade after the Lampedusa boat tragedy, the Mediterranean remains the deadliest migration route in the world

This toll is more than twice as high as that of the same period of 2023, the deadliest year for migrants at sea in Europe since 2016, the press release specifies.

The Mattei plan aims to tackle the factors fueling crossings and persuade countries of origin to sign readmission agreements for migrants who are denied permission to stay in Italy.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AFP)

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