When Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met Rishi Sunak this week, on her agenda were two issues that she believes threaten Europe most: the illegal migrant boat crisis and Europe’s plummeting fertility rate. Nicholas Farrell in the Spectator says the conservative PM knows these two issues are linked. Here’s an excerpt.
On the first of these, the small boat migrants, Italy is in deep trouble. Already this year, nearly as many illegal migrants have arrived there by sea as arrived in Britain from France in the whole of 2022. Earlier this month, Meloni declared Italy’s migrant crisis a national emergency. The talk is of up to 900,000 migrant sea arrivals from Tunisia if its crisis-torn dictatorship collapses, and a further 685,000 in Libya ready to cross. That would be a catastrophe, not just for Italy but for Europe and for Britain.
On the second, what Meloni calls the slow suicide of Europe, Italy is in even deeper trouble. Italy was once world-famous for the phrase ‘Mamma mia!’ and for the women who until the 1970s produced huge numbers of bambini even though they were poor. Now it has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world at 1.2 births per woman. In 2022, it recorded a new historic low – only 392,600 births, down from 400,249 the previous year, the 14th consecutive yearly fall. Since 2014 Italy’s population has fallen by about 1.4 million. Demographers predict that it will collapse from 59 million to 47.7 million by 2070. Britain’s fertility at 1.6 is far healthier than Italy’s, but it’s not great either and still well below the replacement rate of 2.1. Nearly all economists agree that a declining population is fatal economically.
These two issues, boats and births, are inextricably intertwined. The liberal Left in Italy, as everywhere, insists that we have not just an ethical duty to allow in migrants, legal or not, but an economic duty. We need them to pay our pensions, they say. But this, says Meloni, is nonsense – and she has a point.
Youth unemployment in Italy is nearly 25% and one-third of Italians of working age do not work, the highest number in Europe. So the only work for illegal migrants is either slave labour at less than €5 an hour or crime. More than half of all thefts and robberies in Italy are committed by illegal migrants.
And this is where Meloni’s big idea comes in, though who knows what Sunak will make of it. Instead of importing a new population, she says, let’s reignite the traditional enthusiasm of Italian women to have babies. And her finance minister Giancarlo Giorgetti has just announced his intention to abolish tax for families that have two or more children, though the media has been more fixated on Meloni’s ‘homophobia’ because of government moves to limit same-sex couples from being registered as parents.
Farrell notes that “as so often, it is the down-to-earth poor girl, Meloni, who is Right-wing and pro-family, and the head-in-the-clouds posh girl, [opposition leader Elly] Schlein, who is Left-wing and pro-migrant”. In the terminology popularised by David Goodhart, “Meloni is somewhere, while Schlein is anywhere”.
Farrell closes by quoting a 2019 speech that helped catapult Meloni to power:
Now they’re talking about getting rid of the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ on documents. Because the family is an enemy, national identity is an enemy, sexual identity is an enemy… It’s the old groupthink game: they’ve got to get rid of everything that we are, because when we no longer have an identity and we no longer have any roots, we will be deprived of awareness and incapable of defending our rights.
‘That’s their game. They want us to be Parent 1, Parent 2, gender LGBT, Citizen X: code numbers. But we are not code numbers, we are people and we will defend our identity. I am Giorgia! I am a woman! I am a mother! I am Italian! I am Christian! You will not take that away from me! You will not take that away from me!
Worth reading in full.