The Brothers of Italy Party (FdI), an extreme right-wing party, won the general elections that took place in Italy on September 25, 2022. The leader of the FdI, Giorgia Meloni, has formed a coalition government with Forza Italia and the League Party and has taken office at the end of October 2022 by receiving a vote of confidence from the Chamber of Deputies and the Parliament.
The point that attention getter in the cabinet was the newly established “Ministry of the Sea and the South.” This ministry will deal with issues related to the maritime sector, on which a quarter of Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly or indirectly dependent. Comments have been made that it is even too late for the establishment of the ministry. It is thought that the Ministry of the Sea and the South can play an important role in the implementation of the “Mediterraneo Allargato (Broad or Expanded Mediterranean)” strategy for the Mediterranean. The history of the idea, which is considered one of the most interesting strategic proposals that have burgeoned in Italy in recent years, dates back to the 1980s.
The White Paper for International Security and Defence published in 2015 has defined the Mediterranean as a region of vital importance for the stability and national interests of Italy. Thus, discussions have been raised again that a more comprehensive defence and foreign policy is needed for the Mediterranean Region, which is a reference for the Italian Armed Forces. This political approach was presented to the Parliament by the Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini on October 30, 2019. With this step, it was confirmed at the government level that the Expanded Mediterranean Strategy, which was first raised by the Italian Navy in the 1990s, and then by the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, is a priority for Italy.
The Expanded Mediterranean Region, which encompasses Italy’s geopolitical vision, contains not only the Mediterranean Sea, historically referred to as “Mare Nostrum (Our Sea)”, but also the Maghreb (the northwest African Region) between the Persian Gulf, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the Sahel (the region from the Sahara in the north to Sudan in the south) and the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.
According to Retired Admiral Giuseppe de Giorgi, who held important positions in the Italian Navy, today the Mediterranean Sea contains more area than in the past and should be considered as a geo-strategic and geo-economic whole, together with the Black Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. In this context, the Central Mediterranean should also be reconsidered with content covering military planning, armed forces, the concept of using the armed forces and peacetime operations. Giorgi’s depiction of the Mediterranean Region is seen on Map 1.
Map 1: Admiral Giuseppe de Giorgi’s Depiction of the Mediterranean Region
The national interests of Italy in the Expanded Mediterranean are summarized as stabilizing Libya, securing energy resources in the Mediterranean, protecting trade routes at sea, reducing, and managing the flow of migrants to Italy, restructuring the regional order and stability that supports the socio-economic development of the region, and thus contributing to Italy’s security and economy.
Moreover, combating terrorism and piracy, peace, protection and enforcement, Italian overseas infrastructure development and preservation of marine transport, such as symmetric and asymmetric traffic patrol and escort duties for the safety of military operations to protect national interests in the strategy for the development of scenarios also is included.
To reduce the influx of migrants to Italy, the Meloni Government first adopted a decision banning ship belonging to foreign non-governmental organizations from rescuing irregular migrants in the Mediterranean from entering Italian territorial waters. In this context, the Ocean Viking ship, which was waiting for a response to the safe harbour request with 234 migrants for about 20 days, was not allowed to dock in Italian ports and then the ship docked at the French Military Port of Toulon.
The Expanded Mediterranean Strategy covers much more than the Central Mediterranean and the migrant problem. Regarding energy, which is seen as one of the Italian national interests in a strategic context, it is foreseen that the Meloni Government, like previous governments, will continue to use the Italian energy company ENI for its strategic interests in North Africa, especially in Libya.
How effective such practices have come to light in the case of Russia-Gazprom. As is known, ENI, together with Gazprom, has taken part in strategic projects such as the transportation of Russian gas through the Black Sea. In the Eastern Mediterranean, after the US withdrew its support, it did not support the EastMed Project, which became “obsolete” in a sense, both because of its cost and its potential to create regional instability.
After passing through the realpolitik filter of Meloni’s discourses before she came to power, the following conclusion emerges: Italy wants to implement the cooperation it wants to make with Greece on the issue of migrants and refugees with other states in the region and is open to cooperation on energy.
Consequently, the Expanded Mediterranean Strategy will be carried out more actively together with the new ministry established. Considering the place and importance of maritime trade in the Italian economy, with the sea leg of the Belt and Road Project passing through Italian ports, these ports will have the potential to rival the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg. At the same time, the Belt-Road Project can contribute to the development of Italy’s trade relations with North African countries, especially in transport and fisheries. Thus, it can be foreseen that Italy can play a more active role in North Africa in terms of energy through ENI. In addition to all these, with the nationalist attitude adopted on the issue of irregular migrant flow, there may be some crises in Continental Europe, especially with France.
 “La lista dei ministri di Giorgia Meloni, nasce il Ministero del Mare”, Rainews, https://www.rainews.it/tgr/liguria/articoli/2022/10/lig-lista-ministri-Giorgia-Meloni-ministero-del-Mare-1f8c420d-6237-4270-94d7-abb82f6b73fb.html, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).
 Gabriele Catania, “All’Italia Serve Un Ministero Del Mare”, Glistatigenerali, https://www.glistatigenerali.com/acqua_geopolitica/allitalia-serve-un-ministero-del-mare/, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).
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 Matteo Marconi, “Una Nuova Visione Geopolitica Per Il Mediterraneo Allargato?”, Gnosis, https://gnosis.aisi.gov.it/gnosis/Rivista46.nsf/ServNavig/46-32.pdf/$File/46-32.pdf?OpenElement, (Date of Accession: 26.11.2022).
 “International Security and Defence White Paper”, The Ministry of Defence, Italy, https://www.difesa.it/Primo_Piano/Documents/2015/07_Luglio/White%20book.pdf, (Date of Accession: 26.11.2022).
 Alessandro Marrone, “Security Policy in the Southern Neighbourhood”, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, https://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/rom/16768-20200421.pdf, (Date of Accession: 26.11.2022).
 “Il Mediterraneo allargato”, Ammiraglio Giuseppe de Giorgi, https://www.ammiragliogiuseppedegiorgi.it/mc/481/il-mediterraneo-allargato, (Date of Accession: 27.11.2022).
 Marrone, op.cit.
 “Energy War” in the Eastern Mediterranean. Is This the New “Big Game”?”, South East Med Energy&Defense, https://www.semedenergydefense.com/energy-war-in-the-eastern-mediterranean-is-this-the-new-big-game/, (Date of Accession: 27.11.2022).
 Nurşin Ateşoğlu Güney, “Batılı Ülkelerin Doğu Akdeniz Politikaları”, Kemal İnat vd., der., Doğu Akdeniz ve Türkiye’nin Hakları, SETA Kitapları, İstanbul 2020, p. 147.
 Övgü Pınar, “İtalya Seçimleri: Meloni İktidara Gelirse Türkiye Politikası Değişir mi?”, BBC News Türkçe, https://www.bbc.com/turkce/articles/c84yknkjd2ko.amp, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2022).
 “Italian PM Reaffirms Tajani Statement on Greek Islands’ Sovereignty”, Ekathimerini, https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1198480/italian-pm-reaffirms-tajani-statement-on-greek-islands-sovereignty/, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).