Cutro at the center of Italy and Europe

The dramatic shipwreck that 12 days ago caused the death of dozens of people, 72 confirmed to date, off the coast of Cutro continues to be at the center of the national debate and to provoke bitter political controversy. After the condolences expressed on several occasions by government representatives – although not always in the most appropriate way, as demonstrated by Minister Piantedosi – it is now time to take action, «to make concrete choices» as President Mattarella suggests, both to ensure that episodes like the one in Cutro can never happen again and to shed light on what has unfortunately already happened. It was probably with this in mind that Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi went to Parliament on Tuesday to reconstruct the dynamics of the incident and absolve the executive of any responsibility for it. The central point of Piantedosi’s “defence” in the Chamber referred to Frontex’s failure to report a dangerous situation, so it would be «false and insulting» to claim that the government had prevented the migrants from being rescued at sea, since the responsibility for the incident is in fact to be ascribed entirely to the behaviour of the boatmen. Majority and government rallied around the Minister and thus renewed their trust in the Viminale’s owner under thunderous applause in both the Chamber and the Senate.

But instead it is an open clash with the oppositions. From the PD emerged Giuseppe Provenzano’s incendiary intervention according to which «the government should be investigated for culpable massacre», the M5S stressed Minister Salvini’s absence in the Chamber while Renzi remarked that Italian national identity should be that of those who «save lives and not those who defend rejections». Absent, however, was the speech expected by many from newly elected Dem secretary Elly Schlein, who only a few days earlier had called for the Minister’s resignation in her first act in the Chamber as leader of her party. It was only later in the Transatlantic that Schlein pointed out how the Minister had wasted an opportunity to shed light on the matter, while admitting that «despite the obvious embarrassment of the majority» the government had regrouped around the Minister of the Interior. An acknowledgement that seems to suggest, at least for now, an unwillingness to intervene with a no-confidence motion against Piantedosi, knowing full well that, in the event of a rejection, it would only strengthen the Minister’s leadership. While emphasizing that it is not in the party’s plans to take “steps back” on the matter, the new leader of the PD seems to be making an opposition that is perhaps more strategic and cunning than the voters would have expected. And it is precisely this that suggests the possibility of a constructive dialogue between the two female-led camps, Schlein on one side and Meloni on the other, in the week in which International Women’s Day was celebrated. It should be emphasized that from this point of view the current year is of historical significance, with a woman for the first time at the head of the government, another at the head of the first opposition party, one at the presidency of the Constitutional Court and one at the head of the Supreme Court. «Being a woman is a great advantage because they often do not see us coming» said Prime Minister Meloni, quoting Schelin herself. Next goal? That of appointing a woman CEO of a state-owned subsidiary and, perhaps, electing the first female President of the Republic.

But Meloni almost immediately returned to focus on the stability of her government and on the migrant-themed measure at the center of the Council of Ministers meeting in Cutro on Thursday, while awaiting the investigation into the shipwreck that will have the task of establishing whether and what eventually went wrong among the various Ministries. The government’s first and exceptional trip has a particularly operational soul with the green light given to the decree that severely punishes smugglers and criminal organisations, introducing a “universal” crime that will also be prosecuted outside national borders, and at the same time simplifies procedures to encourage legal immigration.

Meloni also used the occasion to send a strong message to Europe: Italy intends to play its part in the immigration game, but it cannot do so alone and needs the collaboration and cooperation of the entire Union. On the other hand, even EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen seems to agree with the PM, stating that «this latest tragedy must serve as an invitation to redouble our determination and lead to shared solutions. Migration is a European challenge – and as such – requires a European solution».

President von der Leyen’s words also come in the week of her visit to the United States for a series of high-level meetings that culminated today with the most eagerly awaited talk, that with President Joe Biden. The first face-to-face meeting at the White House between the European and American chief executives brings on the agenda discussions on the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), sanctions on Russia, relations with China and economic security in the supply chains of key raw materials in the future. The negotiations between Brussels and Washington, which have been ongoing for weeks now, could thus reach a turning point and reach an agreement in principle on issues such as labour, sustainability and not least access to critical raw materials with the aim of negotiating final texts in a few weeks.