The political support behind the EU project is slowly but steadily fading away. The recent bilateral summit between the president of France and Italy’s prime minister while the latest of a series of signs of this trend, is also particularly relevant because involves two wealthy and (relatively) populous founding members of the EU. The preference for bilateral vs. multilateral negotiations is by itself symptomatic of the crisis. No one is surprised if a UK prime minister is EU-sceptical, that’s part of the game. It is a different story if France goes on war almost unilaterally, suspends Schengen preventively and Italy questions the very existence of the EU. And let’s not forget that no long ago Angela Merkel was reported threatening Germany withdrawal from the Euro. The revolutionary movements in North Africa and Middle East are providing yet another stage on which the EU drama is unfolding. Real, perceived or imagined human migration is at the core of the current tensions within the EU and among EU members. Can what should be a manageable flow of 30,000 migrants from Tunisia lead to the abolition of Schengen? The renationalisation of EU borders is in full motion. Cui prodest? Who benefits from this?
Monthly Archives: April 2011
New report by Franck Duvell and Bastian Vollmer (ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society) on securitizing the EU borders and the irregularization of migration. The report provides an analysis of irregular migration flows and stocks, and EU policy responses.
Two more reports were published recently on irregular migration in Britain: IPPR’s controversial ‘No easy options‘ and Migrants Resource Centre’s ‘Hope costs nothing‘. For a discussion on irregular migrant children and the challanges to public policy see my recent paper on The Migration Observatory.
Fulfilling his internal political agenda, once again Berlusconi and his government play the ‘emergency’ card to divert the attention of Italian public opinion away from his legal charges for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his office by seeking her release from custody, and from the dramatic economic crisis to which the country seems unable to respond to. Completely unbothered by the lack of sensitivity of his words for the victims of real tsunamis, Berlusconi stated yesterday that the arrival of migrants and refugees from North Africa is a ‘human tsunami’. To validate statements like this one, the Italian government needs a place like the island of Lampedusa, a place small enough to appear overcrowded even with a few thousand people.
Of course, for Lampedusa’s residents the arrivals of migrants – and it would interesting to see how much the current flows are exceptional or instead fit seasonal patterns – cause real logistical issues and their concerns are legitimate, but in the grand narrative of the emergency and invasion constructed by the Italian government with the support of some European agencies like Frontex (interested to legitimise its expanding budget and mandate) and Gaddafi (interested to stress his role as defender of the EU borders) (cf. Hein de Haas’ blog) they are instrumental to reify the spectacle of the invasion. This narrative suits Berlusconi because it enables him to wear his favorite cloths, that of the savior, the charismatic leader who flies to the island and solves the ‘problem’.
However, Berlusconi is a charismatic leader of his own league, and his ‘solution’ to the invasion – once again real in relation to Lampedusa and its residents, but hardly a significant flow of people in relation to Italy as a whole – bear the marks of his persona: buying all the boats available in Tunisia to stop people, commissioning a tv series set in Lampedusa to boost tourism, and personally purchasing a villa.
Update: Villa Due Palme bought by Berlusconi in March 2011 is to date (August 2012) abandoned and awaiting renovation. Metaphor of his political trajectory?