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Scholz welcomes Meloni: polite despite all the differences


Italy’s Prime Minister Meloni visited Chancellor Scholz on her inaugural visit. There was unanimity on the subject of Ukraine, dissonance in refugee policy. But there was no scandal – the relations between the two countries are too important.

By Martin Ganslmeier, ARD Capital Studio

Before her election victory in September, Giorgia Meloni was very critical of Germany and the EU. The party leader of the post-fascist party Fratelli d’Italia threatened that the fun was over for Europe and criticized the “dictate of Berlin” in Europe. No wonder that Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in no hurry to welcome Italy’s most right-wing head of government since dictator Benito Mussolini for an inaugural visit.

But more than three months after taking office, the excitement has calmed down. Meloni’s foreign and European policy has so far largely followed that of her predecessor, Mario Draghi, who is well-liked in Germany. Instead of an “Italy First” policy, Meloni is trying to appear on the international stage as a reliable head of government.

The first four-eye meeting between the two heads of government was primarily about the Russian war in Ukraine and refugee policy in Europe.

Christoph Mestmacher, ARD Berlin, on the meeting between Scholz and Meloni in Berlin

tagsschau24 6:00 p.m., 3.2.2023

Unity in the Russian raid

The Chancellor emphasized that Scholz and Meloni largely agree on the subject of Ukraine. He sees agreement on questions of foreign and security policy, especially when it comes to the Russian attack on Ukraine and how to deal with its consequences. “Italy and Germany are providing Ukraine with extensive support in defending against Russian aggression,” said Scholz. It will stay that way.

After Meloni’s election victory, many feared that she – like other right-wing populists in Europe – sympathized with Russia and President Vladimir Putin. So far, however, Meloni has clearly backed Ukraine, which she reiterated during her visit to Berlin.

“I don’t agree with those who say: If you support Ukraine, you continue the war. That’s not true,” she said. “If we didn’t support Ukraine, then we wouldn’t have peace, we would have an invasion.”

Meloni pursues a tough refugee policy

On the other hand, there are different views between Scholz and Meloni on the subject of refugee policy: Meloni is taking a hard line so that refugees from Africa do not even come to Italy via the Mediterranean.

Meloni also made the work of the sea rescue ships more difficult, which was not only criticized in Germany. Meloni, in turn, is demanding that Germany and other EU countries take in more boat people from Africa arriving in Italy.

Scholz wants agreements with countries of origin

Scholz spoke out in favor of a humanitarian refugee policy, but announced agreements so that illegal refugees could be returned to their home countries. “With regard to the countries of origin of migrants, I say: Those who are not entitled to stay with us must of course return to their country of origin and also be able to return,” explained Scholz. Agreements with the countries of origin will have to be made about this.

There were no concrete results during the first visit by the new Italian head of government, but there was also no scandal. Despite major political differences, Scholz and Meloni were polite to each other. Good relations between Germany and Italy are too important.

Melonis’ first visit to Scholz

Martin Ganslmeier, ARD Berlin, February 3, 2023 at 7:16 p.m