Brussels intervenes as Italy and France fight over migrant boats – POLITICO

Officials in Brussels are drawing up an emergency plan to resolve escalating tensions between EU countries over how to deal with asylum seekers rescued at sea, the Commission’s vice-president tells POLITICO European, Margaritis Schinas.

The Commission is calling for an extraordinary meeting of interior ministers to discuss the crisis and consider the next steps in the action plan, Schinas said in an interview. The EU executive’s intervention comes amid a growing dispute between Italy and France over the reception of migrants, with new Italian leader Giorgia Meloni accusing Paris of treason on Friday.

The extraordinary meeting of interior ministers is expected to be convened by the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating Council Presidency.

“We cannot allow two member states to fight in public and create another mega political crisis over migration,” Schinas said. The Commission is therefore “taking the initiative” to call for “a ministerial meeting before the Justice and Home Affairs Council scheduled for December”, Schinas said.

The extraordinary meeting is expected to address the dispute between Paris and Rome over the disembarkation of migrants from boats run by NGOs. And the meeting “would be a moment when, once again, the Commission will try to juggle… an action plan with concrete initiatives for the whole [Central Mediterranean] course,” he added.

France has suspended a plan to take in 3,500 asylum seekers currently in Italy after Meloni’s new right-wing coalition refused to let a migrant rescue ship land on its shores.

Tensions between the two countries have escalated since the new Italian government banned the Ocean Viking ship, operated by a French NGO, from docking with around 230 migrants.

The ship initially sought access to the Italian coast, which is closest to where the migrants were picked up, saying sanitary and sanitary conditions on board were rapidly deteriorating.

France has denounced Rome’s “unacceptable behaviour”, but Italy insists it has taken in its share of migrants and called for EU solidarity.

The Commission, Schinas pointed out, has no jurisdiction over international waters, where boats rescue migrants. But he began “to ruminate a little” on what can fit into the action plan.

Schinas said his suggestion is that “it would be something that not only covers the solidarity element, but the whole [Central Mediterranean] route.” The plan should also address “departures”, i.e. the movement of migrants from North African countries such as Tunisia and Libya, he said.

“There is also something we need to do better. Our development aid and neighborhood aid to countries of origin and transit are still not working as well as we would have liked when it comes to migration,” Schinas added. “There are too many players, too many legal bases, too many recipients. We need better concentration of our development aid and our neighborhood aid.

Brussels intervenes as Italy and France fight over migrant boats – POLITICO
Tensions between the two countries have escalated since the new Italian government banned the Ocean Viking ship from docking with around 230 migrants | Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images

Yet at the same time, Schinas, whose portfolio as commissioner for “promoting our European way of life” includes migration, has not refrained from criticizing EU member countries for not agreed on the reform of EU asylum rules proposed by the Commission. called the Migration Pact. He notably criticized the Italian government which, according to him, is on the one hand asking for more European solidarity to solve the problem of migrant rescue boats, while blocking the agreement on the new European pact.

Until the migration pact is concluded, a voluntary agreement between EU member countries to redistribute asylum seekers should still be used, he said. However, this will require governments like Italy’s to allow rescue ships to land, he stressed.

The situation is “breathtaking,” Schinas said. “Some of the member states that want us to intervene in the current crisis…are the ones that are systematically blocking the progress of the pact.” But “you can’t have it both ways,” he said, confirming he was explicitly referring to “Italy.”


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