Italy PM urges help for Tunisia, warns of 'migration wave'

AFP , Friday 24 Mar 2023

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni urged greater support Friday for crisis-torn Tunisia, warning at Brussels summit of the risk of a "migratory wave" towards Europe if the situation deteriorated.

Giorgia Meloni
Italy s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks to media after a EU Summit, at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on March 24, 2023. AFP


"Maybe not everyone is aware of the risks we are facing about the Tunisia situation and the need to support stability in a nation that has serious financial problems," she told reporters after the meeting of EU leaders, at which she said she raised the issue.

"If we do not address those problems in the right way, (the situation) risks unleashing a wave of migration which is objectively unprecedented," she said.

Meloni's hard-right government took office in October after elections in which her party promised to cut mass migration into Italy.

Meloni said she had discussed Tunisia with French President Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting late Thursday, which she described as "very productive", after months of tensions between Rome and Paris over migration and other issues.

She confirmed plans for a mission to the north African country involving the Italian and French foreign ministers and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Meloni said she had also discussed the situation with EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, who she said would visit Tunisia in the coming days.

Tunisia has been struggling under mounting debt and rising prices worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It reached an agreement in principle in mid-October for a nearly $2 billion package from the International Monetary Fund, which in return is seeking reforms.

"The fundamental issue is the International Monetary Fund, and therefore a diplomatic effort must be made to convince both parties, the IMF and the Tunisian government, to close this agreement to financially stabilise the region," she said.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Monday that Tunisia risks collapse "economically or socially", which could trigger a new flow of migrants to Europe, an assessment rejected by Tunis.

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