EU's chaotic migrant policies wrecking Italian serenity
Serenity is a quality you rightly expect in small Italian towns. But the world is as it is, and Europe's migrant crisis is never far from affecting the day to day life of ordinary people, something Europe's insulated political classes seem strangely unaware of
Driving from Italy to France, a good route is to take the road east from Turin, which crosses the border and winds along to Chambéry and Lyon. Right up by the border is the little town of Bardonecchia, the westernmost comune in Italy.
I stopped there once and there’s not much, a shop, a chemist, a hotel. This week the French invaded it.
There is also in Bardonecchia a charity run migrant hostel for refugees and the invaders were armed members of the French customs and border police. They intimidated doctors and voluntary workers, sought out a particular migrant and forced him to take a urine test.
At the request of the hostel the Italian police (also armed) arrived and chased the French off. The French ambassador has been summoned to the Palazzo Farnese, the Italian foreign office to explain himself. Just like old times.
In retrospect it was a mistake to do this during the Italian election negotiations. The already substantial chest of Matteo Salvini, of the right-wing Lega party, swelled with indignation. ‘As well as expelling the Russian diplomats, we need to chuck out the French. With us in charge, Italy will raise its head in Europe, we have no lessons to take from Macron and Merkel, and we will control our own borders.’
A pithier remark came from former Prime Minister Enrico Letta: ‘And in Europe they are surprised about our election result!’
An interesting quote came from Maurizio Martina, new head of the Democratic Party ‘The facts of Bardonecchia are serious. One does not behave in this way in the new Europe’.
The trouble is, Maurizio, that one does. The French have closed the border at Menton, the Austrians have closed it at the Brenner Pass. The Visegrad Four, Poland, Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, have refused to take any migrants and are prepared to fight to stop them. With armed patrols at the borders, it is looking strangely like the ‘old’ Europe.
And poor Italy gets all the flak: do-gooder charities agreeing to meet Libyans near their coast and giving them a free ride to Italy. Hordes coming in through Sicily and the Aeolian Islands. And the bitter irony is the migrants themselves don’t want to stay in Italy - they want to go somewhere there is some work.
Bardonecchia may be the start, but this migrant crisis will test Europe to its foundations.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
We are wholly dependent on the kindness of our readers for our continued work. We thank you in advance for any support you can offer.