Southern Europe is becoming embroiled in an international controversy over the fate of the endless waves of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, with these people proverbially being treated like a "hot potato" and passed from port to port because nobody really wants them. The issue emerged only after the electoral victory of Italy's EuroRealist government earlier this year and Rome's subsequent refusal to continue accepting unlimited amounts of migrants. New Interior Minister and Lega leader Matteo Salvini took a hardline law-and-order stance towards these undocumented arrivals and dramatically refused to allow the "charity"-operated "Aquarius" and "Open Arms" "rescue boats" to dock at its ports, after which the tiny nearby island nation of Malta also rejected them before some of the migrants were ultimately received by France and Spain.
The newly socialist-controlled Iberian country recently surpassed Italy as the main destination for Mediterranean migrants while the Gallic state has tried to position itself as a regional champion of the EU's "open borders" policy. Malta, meanwhile, has recently caved into pressure and entered into a temporary migrant resettlement deal with France and Germany, making Italy the proverbial "odd man out" but nevertheless increasing its international importance as a result. Although nowhere near the scale of the 2015 Migrant Crisis through the Balkans, the 2018 Mediterranean one to Southern Europe does share some structural similarities, namely in a key transit state — in this case Italy instead of Hungary — refusing to go along with EU norms and attempting to reform the system.
It's one thing when a landlocked Central European country that only recently joined the bloc tries to do this and something else entirely when the much larger maritime gateway to Western Europe and one of the founders of the EU itself applies this exact same policy, which has thrown the German-led organization's vision of "open borders" into jeopardy and threatens to catalyze more profound political change as well. Another point of pertinence is that Spain's replacement of Italy as the main transit destination for EU-bound migrants might put it in the crosshairs of the next crisis if its newfound role provokes a strong political reaction there. Whatever eventually happens, one thing is for sure, and it's that Italy's position towards Mediterranean migrants is shaking up the situation among the once-fraternal countries of Western & Southern Europe.
Sergio Borg, Italian political commentator and Enrique R. Acedo, Spanish-based geopolitical observer, and writer for Geopolitica.Ru, join the show.
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