The struggle between the centrist government of Emmanuel Macron and the new radical right Executive of Giorgia Meloni on account of fate the 234 migrants rescued on the high seas by the ship Ocean Viking (operated by the French NGO SOS Mediterranean) has returned to the first line the internal divisions in the European Union in terms of migration policy.
Brussels is preparing a new emergency plan to try to de-escalate the clash between Italy and France. But the lack of agreement on a permanent mechanism to distribute migrants arriving in the countries of the south – on the front line of the EU border – poisons all discussions.
Bypassing Meloni, Macron spoke this Monday by telephone with the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella. “Both have affirmed the great importance of relations between France and Italy and have highlighted the need to create the conditions for full cooperation in all areas, both bilaterally and within the European Union”, says the joint statement published at the end of the conversation.
[Francia acogerá a los 234 inmigrantes del barco Ocean Viking y arremete contra Italia]
However, the dialogue between presidents has not served to resolve the dispute between Paris and Rome. The French Ministry of the Interior has ratified that reverses its decision to welcome the 3,000 migrants who arrived in Italy whom it had promised to relocate. For his part, the new head of Italian diplomacy, Antonio Tajanihas brought the conflict to the meeting of EU foreign ministers held this Monday in Brussels.
France ended up allowing the Ocean Viking to enter the port of Toulon last weekwhich had been adrift for weeks by Italy’s refusal to open its ports. The French Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin called Rome’s attitude “incomprehensible” and warned of “extremely severe consequences for bilateral relations.”
Darmanin maintains that the Ocean Viking was “without a doubt in the Italian search and rescue zone” and therefore it was up to the Government of Rome to “immediately designate a port to receive this ship”.
“The reaction France is having to the request to take in 234 migrants – when Italy has taken in 90,000 this year alone – is totally incomprehensible,” The new Italian Minister of the Interior replied, matthew piantedosian independent appointed by La Liga de Matteo Salvini. Meloni’s radical right-wing government has made the closure of the external borders one of the central axes of its political program.
Italy complains about the lack of solidarity from the rest of the EU partners. To begin with, Poland and Hungary have blocked all attempts by Brussels to establish a mandatory quota system. To circumvent this veto, a total of 13 countries (including France and Germany) agreed last June on a voluntary distribution mechanism. The goal was to distribute up to 8,000 migrants present in France, but so far only 117 have been located, of which Paris has only received 38.
“European solidarity is announced, but so far Italy has faced this problem alone and our reception system is in serious difficulties”, denounces the Government of Meloni, which over the weekend he has garnered the support of Greece, Malta and Cyprus (but not from Spain). The four countries also question the role of the NGOs that patrol the Mediterranean, which they accuse of causing a “pull effect”.
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“We cannot subscribe to the notion that the countries of first entry are the only possible European places for the disembarkation of illegal immigrants, especially when this happens in an uncoordinated way. based on a choice made by private vesselswhich act with complete autonomy from the authorities of the competent State”, states the joint statement made public this Saturday by Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus.
The four countries ask the Commission for Ursula von der Leyen what to drink measures to restrict the activity of NGOs patrolling in the Mediterranean. An activity that in his opinion “does not conform to the spirit of the international legal framework regarding search and rescue operations.”
What has Von der Leyen done in this conflict? In an attempt to not anger neither Rome nor Paris, the Community Executive initially opted for a low profile. “Saving lives on the high seas is a moral duty and a legal obligation,” said the Interior spokeswoman last Monday, when the situation on board the Ocean Viking began to be unsustainable.
It was not until Thursday when Brussels raised its tone and called for the “immediate” disembarkation of the migrants to avoid a “humanitarian tragedy.” But he did without at any time citing the Government of Meloni and when the ship was already heading for the port of Toulon.
Once the case is resolved, the European Commission demands the urgent call for an extraordinary meeting of interior ministers of the 27. “We cannot allow two member states to fight each other in public and create another political mega-crisis on migration,” said the vice president of the Community Executive, Margaritis Schinas. Brussels defends that the solution is in the European Migration Pact that he proposed in September 2020but the bill between the Member States prevents any progress.
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