Who are the real ‘Fascists’, now?

From now on, it will be up to individual countries such as Giorgia Meloni’s Italy (or Robert Abela’s Malta, for that matter) to ‘decide’ for themselves which country constitutes a ‘safe port of call’, or not...

When elected prime minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni was quickly defined as a ‘far-right’ politician by the world media
When elected prime minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni was quickly defined as a ‘far-right’ politician by the world media

It’s a funny old world we all live in, isn’t it? Consider, for instance, how most of it had reacted to Giorgia Meloni’s victory in the last Italian election (held less than a year ago, in October 2022.)

The BBC ran with the headline: ‘Who is Georgia Meloni? The rise to power of Italy’s new far-right PM.’ And the rest of the European media, in its overwhelming majority, followed suit... to the point that it almost became ‘de rigeur’, for newspaper articles to always define Italy’s newly-elected PM as a ‘far-right’ politician, with practically every single mention of her name.

But that’s not all. The Associated Press also reminded us that Meloni had “steeped herself in far-right ideology, as a teenager’; while describing her party, ‘Fratelli D’Italia’, as “a fast-growing, nationalist party with neo-fascist roots.”

Even earlier, sections of the international press had predicted (some more eagerly than others) that Italy itself would experience an entire ‘regression’, in terms of human rights, under Meloni’s premiership. The international news agency OpenDemocracy, for instance, carried an article, in September 2022, entitled ‘What Giorgia Meloni’s Far-Right government will mean for Italy.’

These are the first few sentences: “Giorgia Meloni’s Far-Right Brothers of Italy party is set to head Italy’s most right-wing government since the fall of Mussolini’s fascist regime in 1943 [...] Meloni’s agenda is nationalist and anti-immigration, while opposing ‘gender ideology’ and promoting the ‘traditional family’. She defines herself as ‘pro-family’, which has stoked fears over abortion and LGBTIQ+ rights in Italy. But how did we get here – and how will Meloni’s extreme views play out in government?”

Anyway, I could go on: among other things, by pointing out that even here in Malta, most news outlets – including the one you are reading right now – seem to have also adopted more or less the same sort of approach...

But the bottom line, I suppose, is that Giorgia Meloni (who – let’s face it – nobody outside Italy had ever really heard about, before 2022) was instantly branded, by almost the entire global press, as either:

a) at worst, the single greatest threat to European democracy, since... well, the fascist regimes of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, in the early 20th century;

or b) at best, just another ‘populist’ politician: to be ranked alongside the likes of Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Nigel Farage, and others who – for different reasons, perhaps; and often motivated by very different ideologies – also evidently ‘scare the willies’ out of much of Europe’s more liberal-leaning, ‘pro-democracy’ population.

But like I was saying right at the beginning: all that was around nine months ago, now. And a lot has happened in the meantime.

Today, for instance, the global attitude towards the same Giorgia Meloni seems to have... shall we say, ‘softened’ a little. And to be fair: this may be down to the fact that Meloni herself has so far defied most of those expectations, of an ‘all-out return to Mussolini-style fascism’.

Even though she has arguably maintained her ‘hard-line immigration stance’, throughout - so much so, that Italy stalled the EU’s recent Asylum Pact agreement, until it got what precisely it wanted – the fact remains that Italy’s current immigration policy is still no ‘harsher’ than, say, our own... or indeed that of any other European country, right now. (Let’s face it: it’s much more the case that the rest of Europe has gravitated towards Meloni’s position, than vice-versa.)

And unless I am much mistaken: under Giorgia Meloni, there doesn’t seem to have been very much change with regard to any of those other ‘human rights’ concerns, either. I am unaware, for instance, that the plight of Italy’s LGBTQ population – or its women, for that matter – has significantly ‘regressed’, over the last year.

Indeed, it could be even argued that not very much in Italy has changed... at all! (To give you just one quick example, out of several: as I recall, the Italian media were avidly discussing the question of whether Sabrina Salerno’s tits were ‘real’, or ‘fake’, as long ago as 1986, at the earliest. And oh, look: it’s still the number one topic of avid Italian media discussion, to this very day!)

See what I mean? Like I just told you a second ago: nothing has really changed, in Italy, for at least the past 40 years... let alone, since Giorgia Meloni became Prime Minister.

But, alas, something tells me that none of this constitutes the real reason, for what appears to be an entire ‘re-invention’ of Giorgia Meloni, in recent months (on the part of the same media that had previously ‘demonised’ her, please note).

We got a small hint last January: when Politico.com ran a story under the headline, ‘Europe’s conservatives want a piece of Giorgia Meloni’.

In it, we were bluntly told that: “While the 46-year-old has freaked out mainstream politicians due to her hard-line stance on migration, comments praising fascism when she was younger, and links to hardcore right-wing figures, the EU’s top conservative politicians are quickly getting over their qualms as they look ahead to 2024, when the bloc elects a new European Parliament and reshuffles its upper ranks.”

Ah yes: European elections. Nothing quite like the prospect of ‘increasing one’s majority in the European Parliament’, is there, to make politicians suddenly ‘forget’ all about their previous ‘opposition to Fascism’ (not to mention, their erstwhile concerns with ‘human rights’: including, among others, the rights of asylum seekers, and immigrants of every other description...)

Which naturally brings me right back to that other issue I mentioned earlier: the latest agreement, by the European Parliament, on a new ‘Migration and Asylum Pact’.

Now: as you might expect, the Maltese media chose largely to focus (understandably enough) on how this agreement may, or may not, actually affect the local situation; and as such, they were far more interested in the position that Malta’s government took on the issue – which, unaccountably, was to ‘abstain’: but I’ll write about that another time – than with what this agreement actually portends for Europe’s immigration policy, as a whole.

This might also explain why most of them merely skimmed over the detail, that was given most prominence in the rest of European press: namely, that this agreement was hammered out, specifically to meet the demands of... you’ll never guess...

Why, Giorgia Meloni, of course! You know: the same Giorgia Meloni who – until as recently as October 2022 - had struck so much ‘terror’, directly into the hearts of all Europe’s self-styled ‘human rights crusaders’, and ‘defenders against Fascism”!

Or to quote the same Brussels-based news portal, once more: “Rome’s green light on Thursday evening unlocked a major deal to overhaul the EU’s asylum procedures for the first time in years, after a gruelling gathering of home affairs ministers in Luxembourg. [...] While the EU only needed majority support to push through the reform package, Italy’s backing was crucial because it receives some of the highest numbers of asylum seekers in the EU. [...]

“’Politically it’s impossible to go ahead without Italy,’” said an EU diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It is the EU country that symbolizes migration’.”

Got all that, folks? So not only has Giorgia Meloni herself been ‘reinvented’, to make her suddenly appear a good less ‘far-right’, than (let’s face it) we all know she really is...

... but she is now even single-handedly dictating the European Union’s entire policy, on... ‘Asylum and Migration’, of all bleeding things! Around the only area of government policy, where Giorgia Meloni has actually stuck to her ‘far right’ guns – and tenaciously, too! - ever since becoming premier, in 2020.

Can anyone be surprised, then, to discover that – on closer scrutiny – this new EU agreement happens to fulfil EXACTLY what the Far Right has always been demanding... on what is arguably the most contentious aspect of all? I.e., the question of whether – and under what circumstances – failed asylum seekers can be returned to their countries of origin?

Once again, this is how Politico describes the scenario: “Rome’s push to broaden the number of countries the EU considers safe enough for denied applicants was [initially] met with German opposition. In the end, an 11th-hour compromise gave EU members more wiggle room to return migrants to safe’ countries, and ultimately pushed the deal to the next stage.

“[...] in a key concession to Italy, individual countries will be free to decide whether a foreign country fulfils such criteria. [...] “It’s up to the member states to make a decision on whether that is enough for the connection criteria,” [Swedish Migration minister] Malmer Stenergard said...”

In other words: from now on, it will be up to individual countries such as Giorgia Meloni’s Italy (or Robert Abela’s Malta, for that matter) to ‘decide’ for themselves which country constitutes a ‘safe port of call’, or not.... notwithstanding the fact that both those countries (and others beside) have a whole history of illegal cases of ‘refoulement’: the technical term for ‘returning migrants to manifestly UNSAFE destinations’ (such as, for instance, Libya)...

... not to mention the fact that at least one of those countries – Malta – has actually faced infringement procedures, in the past (initiated by the European Commission, if you please), over what – until last Thursday, at precisely 3pm – used to be considered a ‘human rights violation’.

But then again: with this new, ‘Giorgia Meloni’-approved EU Immigration Pact firmly in place...  all that’s suddenly become ‘legal’ again, hasn’t it? Just like the Far Right has always wanted; and just like it has now evidently been handed, on a silver platter, by none other than the European Parliament itself.

Almost makes you wonder, though, doesn’t it? Who’s the real ‘Fascist’, now...?