During his visit in New York on Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi renewed his harsh criticism toward the outcome of the informal leaders’ summit last Friday in Bratislava.
Renzi, who was awarded the Global Citizen Award by US Secretary of State John Kerry, said that he was not satisfied with the results of the summit, especially when it comes to how to deal with the migrant flux coming from Africa through Italy.
“I am not one of those who tell people after a summit that everything will be all right and that the roses are going to flourish” said Renzi after the meeting in Bratislava.
The lack of concrete measures to address the most urgent issues from the Italian perspective – such as migration and flexibility – was pinpointed as the major problem with the commissions’ Roadmap for European integration.
In fact, most members did not agree on forcefully accepting migrant quotas and the spending restrictions on government funds to tackle migration expenses were left aside of the agenda, according to the Italian prime minister.
Rocking the boat of migration
Migration is of course the most crucial problem right now. So crucial that from New York Renzi declared that Italy will go alone if the EU does not propose an efficient solution to manage the increasing flux of migrants on the continent.
After the EU-Turkey deal and facilitated by the constant, yet unresolved instability that affected Libya – the main gate to Europe for African migrants – Italy has again turned into the cornerstone of migrant fluxes.
According to the International Organization for Migration, around 79.000 migrants arrived in Italy in the first 6 months of 2016, against the 70.305 of the previous year.
“Italy is saving lives in the Mediterranean because while we can lose some votes, at the same time we cannot lose our values as human beings” said Renzi during the ceremony. “Therefore, it will be important for us to have a strategy for Africa” he added.
“There is a lack in political willingness when it comes to find a common solution for the Mediterranean issue” he claimed, blaming also the political instability and the volatility of the political opinion: “All leaders are kept in check by incoming elections” and “also in Italy the referendum is approaching.”
In other words, EU leaders are afraid of losing consensus ahead of elections on sensitive issues like migration.
While he surely had a point when stating that the EU might have avoided controversial themes, the essence of his remarks is bluntly obvious.
The Italian prime minister is himself under political pressure back home regarding economic reforms to revert the declining economic trend and controlling the refugee crisis.
However, his “muscle stretching” political narrative and his muscular tone seems to be implemented to hide the well-known fragilities he has to address in Rome.
Constitutional reform and referendum
On Wednesday Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) – with a rather surprising move – agreed to accept modification to the crucial Italian electoral law draft.
Renzi invited every party to propose amendments in order to find an agreement after months of fierce resistance to any modification.
These concessions that set a radical change in tone and strategy are mirroring the difficulties the prime minister is facing ahead of another crucial appointment, the constitutional referendum, which is set for October.
Renzi confirmed several times that he will resign if the referendum is a failure. Therefore, in order to gain more support from other parties’ voters, he needed to accept the prospect of allowing changes to his beloved electoral law.
While Renzi’s move towards oppositions underlines his political fragility, on the other hand a possible resignation could be a destabilizing and possibly lethal hit to some political stability after Brexit.
However, this forced compromise could still cost him some electoral consensus when he desperately needs it. In fact, according to a recent Italian poll, the job approval rate sunk from 73% in August 2014, when he came into office, to 35% of last month.
If Renzi wants to arrive to the Rome meeting in March 2017 in a stronger position in comparison to other EU leaders, he better start finding some solutions.