Neocolonial Europe behind Aquarius’ fate

By Orazio Maria Gnerre Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/18 17:33:40

Neocolonial Europe behind Aquarius’ fate

The Mediterranée ship Aquarius with some 630 people from Africa on board that was stranded off the Italian coast for some time has made news.

It is another symptom of the problem of migration involving the Mediterranean and its African and European shores. It is well known that in the face of an ever deeper systemic crisis in the EU's political and economic system, the question of migration weighs heavily on intra-Europe relations. If it is true that there are a whole series of agreements between EU states for taking charge of certain quotas of migrants, it is also true that most of the states are reluctant to collaborate, especially nations like Italy whose coastline provides the first port of call to NGO ships carrying Africans rescued from smugglers.

This year we have seen increasing tension between two EU member states - Italy and France - over some French gendarmes entering Italian territory while chasing an immigrant. The situation has become more acute with what has been going around these days in the country and region.

The new government that has been just set up - in compliance with the electoral promises of one of the parties that went to form the governing coalition, the so-called Northern League, whose policies have always been about the fight against illegal immigration, and whose main representative Matteo Salvini is currently Minister of the Interior - decided to block Aquarius, preventing it from coming to the Italian coast.

All this has triggered a heated debate among Italian citizens, which has spread to Europe. The ship was anchored in the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday, as Spain assumed the burden of receiving the immigrants. From French President Emmanuel Macron to the Spanish government itself, Italy has been blasted from all sides and several accusations and grievances have emerged, accusing it of changing its immigration policies in such a short time.

The issue is not as simple as it seems and seems to be used internationally as a rhetorical tool. France is widely blamed, especially by Italy, of not taking in substantial number of immigrants, blocking them on its own frontier with the help of police, while Spain deploys the military to man its coasts.

But there is another point: The Aquarius incident has polarized Italy, putting two groups against each other. On the one hand, is the group that supports the government's position, citing the need to recover lost security as there has been a surge in uncontrolled immigration lashing Europe in recent years (even if the statistics say otherwise), adding to the question of sovereignty of states vis-à-vis the EU. We can call this group "the populists" (although it has a wider composition and includes large slices of the right wing, centrists and the former left wing). The other group, which we can define as "the left," supports the need to welcome these people, appealing to basic humanitarian principles.

The issue is not easy to resolve, as in the coming years it will change form, becoming a matter not only of Mediterranean but of global import. T he resolution of the problem needs a global approach, not linked to party matters, which have a limited vision of reality. The electorate is right in demanding greater security. It is also true that humanitarian assistance to more than 600 people should be the priority (as the "left" says) for the country.

Unfortunately, however, the simple solutions presented by the two sides, the government and the opposition, are not adequate. The blockade of ports will be useless if African countries remain underdeveloped in economic and supra-structural terms, and will continue to be the theater of war. It is not possible to export all the inhabitants of Africa either to Italy or Europe given the sheer demographic dimensions.

The solution, which does not seem to be in sight of the electorate or the European parties, should involve putting an end to the neocolonial process of dispossession of the African region by Europe, perhaps to arrive at a joint economic relationship between Europe itself and Africa, according to the virtuous model that China is implementing in Central Africa. Such a development that is not predatory or politically intrusive could lay the foundation for the future of an entire continent, too often a victim of aggressive capitalism of the West.

The author is a geopolitical and military analyst. He is a graduate in political science and international relations, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan.

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