Migration now a cause of open dispute between France and Italy

  • Mihai Turcanu
  • 13.6.2018 13:31

The 11 June decision of Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to close the Italian ports to the rescue ship "Aquarius" carrying 629 African migrants provoked the next day a top-level diplomatic clash between the French President Emmanuel Macron who characterized it as cynical, irresponsible, and in contradiction with the international law, and the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who responded that France's position was hypocritical, after which the French ambassador was summoned on Wednesday. 

Salvini, who is also the leader of the far-right Lega Nord party, stated that his decision was meant to send a signal that his country does not intend to become the "refugee camp of Europe", and also push other other EU nations to help Italy bear the burden. His decision was predictable, as his party gained the votes of seven million Italians after an electoral campaign during which he promised to stop the flow of migration from Africa, and deport half a million of people who do not qualify as refugees. This present situation is a result of Italy taking in over the past years a number of more than 640000 asylum-seekers under the Dublin III Regulation and the 1951 Geneva refugee convention, while the EU efforts to help Rome be reforming its asylum system and distributing the refugees around the bloc have been torpedoed by the anti-immigrant V4 countries. As a result, the Italians have grown increasingly disappointed with the EU's inability to act, while the anti-immigrant sentiment has considerably strengthened, both these developments being strongly reflected in the previous general elections.

But it was not only criticism that Itay's decision to close its ports to asylum-seekers was met with. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban was quick to praise Salvini's decision, and on 12 June, Germany's Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer has invited his Italian counterpart to Berlin to discuss a common initiative on the protection of EU external borders, stating that on migration he was "fully in tune" with Salvini. While the EU public opinion has become accustomed to clashes on migration between EU, or Western European countries on one side, and V4 countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, or Poland, on the other, this top-level diplomatic row between two co-founders of the European Union - Italy and France, illustrates just how dangerous the unaddressed problem of mass-migration has become for the European unity. 

 

About author: Mihai Turcanu

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