Tensions between France and Italy have been renewed in recent weeks, in a previous case that has been brought back to light, highlighting the continuing position of a number of Italian politicians to hold Paris responsible for the waves of African migration to Europe.
In a clip from 2019 that was republished again, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni appears in a speech accusing France of exploiting Africa and causing irregular migration of the people of the brown continent.
Meloni’s clip renewed the crisis between Rome and Paris on immigration issues, as well as Africa’s colonial past, and the issue of France’s military withdrawal from the Sahel region and its economic activities on the continent.
In the clip, which was recorded during her tenure as a deputy in Parliament for the “Brothers of Italy” party, Meloni accused France of exploiting the resources of African countries, specifically Burkina Faso, by using what she called the “colonial currency”, which is the CFA franc.
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Meloni was not the only politician who defended the idea of France causing an immigration crisis. In 2019, Luigi Di Maio, then Italian Deputy Prime Minister, blamed Paris for preventing economic development in Africa and causing migration to Europe.
Those statements caused diplomatic tensions between Paris and Rome at the time.
** Renewed tension
In early November, the two European countries fell into a new row over the admission of migrants who were on board the rescue ship for irregular migrants from the Mediterranean Sea “Ocean Viking”.
The Italian government forced its counterpart in Paris to allow the ship to dock in a French port with 230 rescued migrants on board, after Rome repeatedly ignored demands that the ship dock in an Italian port.
Meanwhile, people took to the streets in Africa, particularly in Mali, where France launched military operations to support local forces in their fight against terrorism.
The French authorities are currently facing hostile feelings and violent protests against their presence in the African region, at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron accuses Russia and other countries of feeding these growing feelings against his country.
** Financial control
France’s attempts to control the economies of a number of African countries appear through the “CFA Franc”, which has been used as a currency in two different monetary regions in Africa since 1945, namely the West African Economic and Monetary Union “WAEMU” and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community “CEMAC”. .
Paris praises the existence of monetary cooperation agreements between it and three African monetary regions, namely the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the Central African Economic and Monetary Association, and the Union of the Comoros.
The West African Monetary Union includes 8 member states, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, and uses the West African franc.
As for the Central African Monetary Union, it includes 6 member states, namely Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, and Cha, and uses the CFA franc.
France announced fixing the value of the CFA franc against the euro.
** Clash of currencies
Trade with former French colonies in West and Central Africa “constitutes only 1-2 percent of France’s total trade,” said Denis Cugno, professor at the Paris School of Economics and permanent research fellow at the French Institute for Development Research.
“These former colonies represent less than 1 percent of French investments abroad,” Cugno added to Anadolu Agency.
The French academic pointed out that the parity between the CFA franc and the euro is “very high”, which can be interpreted as an advantage in exports to France.
In light of the search for an African currency alternative to the peg to the French currency, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), consisting of 15 countries, decided to rely on its own currency, the “Eco”, by 2027.
On this African decision, Cogno explained that everything depends on what this currency will be like, whether it will be equal to a fixed parity with the euro or a flexible exchange rate.
The French expert explained that Ghana and Nigeria did not become industrialized countries or more developed than Ivory Coast or Cameroon, only because they launched their own currencies.
** Immigration issues
Many poor African countries see their young people leaving in the hope of finding better conditions in Europe, but young people from the Sahel or sub-Saharan regions are not among the main irregular migrants using the Mediterranean migration route.
And data figures from the European Agency for Border and Coast Guard “Frontex” showed that 85,140 irregular migrants were registered who crossed the border illegally in the period from January to October 2022.
The top five countries were Egypt (16,273), Tunisia (16,221), Bangladesh (11,919), Syria (6,150) and Afghanistan (5,889).
Frontex data indicated that 12,347 illegal border crossings were recorded during the same period along the western Mediterranean route, including 6,003 Algerians, 3,779 Moroccans, 568 Sudanese, 555 Syrians, and 393 Malians.
The statistics of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed the figures revealed by Frontex, and said that migrants from Mali represent only 0.8 percent of the total arrivals by sea since the first since last January, followed by those coming from Cameroon at 1.3 percent, Ivory Coast at 4.2 percent, and Senegal. 0.2% percent.
For a better comparison, Egyptians represent 21.4 percent of the total number of irregular migrants during the aforementioned period, followed by Tunisians at 19.8 percent, Bangladeshis at 14.8 percent, and Syrians at 7.8 percent.