Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Italy considers curbs on 'Schengen zone' free travel

Amid claims of rising crime, Italy has revived a tougher stance against migrants entering the country illegally and suggested the restriction of free movement in the Schengen border-free zone.

"Italian citizens do not want racist or xenophobic behaviour by the Berlusconi government, which it would in any case never adopt. But by their vote they have asked for a firm attitude," Italy's foreign minister Franco Frattini told RAI public radio earlier this week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Italy - popular anger is targeted at Romanian migrants (Photo: European Commission)

In a separate interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday (14 May), Mr Frattini - who recently served as the European Commission vice-president in charge of justice and home affairs - suggested an "updating" of the bloc's passport-free area arrangements established in 1985.

In practice, this would mean limiting the free movement of people by introducing, for example, a minimum income requirement in case an EU citizen wants to stay in Italy for more than three months.

Mr Frattini's comments come as his government colleague, interior minister Robert Maroni from the anti-immigration Northern League, is drafting a legislative package which would make entering the country illegally a crime punishable by up to four years in jail.

According to Reuters, Mr Maroni is also aiming at a suspension of Italy's obligations under the European Union's Schengen scheme - something that would allow Rome to re-introduce external borders. This is currently allowed only in the face of national security or public order risks.

The Romania issue

The move is believed to target migrants from Romania, who are popularly seen as the main source of rising crime in Italy. Over 550,000 Romanians are estimated to live in Italy, many without permission, and some - especially Roma communities - setting up temporary camps.

Fears over such migrants reached its peak last year after the murder of a woman allegedly by a Romanian of Roma origin - something that resulted in the direct expulsion of a number of Roma people.

The then commissioner Frattini himself advised the Italian government to pull down Roma camps to prevent them from returning - a comment harshly criticed by the European Parliament, a strong advocate of the freedom of movement principle.

In the face of new developments, Romania's prime minister, Calin Tariceanu, has ordered his interior minister to pay an urgent visit to Rome to calm tensions.

"We have proposed to the Italian authorities that we could urgently send a team of Romanian policemen and prosecutors to lend support to the Italian authorities in their efforts to combat crime," he said, AFP reports.

Fundamental pillar

He also warned against xenophobic attitudes and insisted that "the right to move freely in Europe is one of the fundamental pillars" of the EU, while Bucharest "could not agree with the violation" of this right.

The stance was echoed by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who said earlier this week that he did not agree with the proposed new offence of clandestine immigration.

"It is clearly necessary to respect the law and to regulate the flow of migrants, but one cannot say that we have no need for immigrants," the cardinal was cited as saying by AFP.

MEPs and EU staff hid from Strasbourg gunman

MEPs and others hid in restaurants and alleys in Strasbourg during a gunman's rampage on Tuesday which left at least three dead and France on emergency alert.

Romanian PM wades into '€20m fine for journalists' row

Prime minister Viorica Dancila told EUobserver that Romania's constitution guarantees freedom of expression for journalists - but insisted EU data protection rules must be respected. Her comments follow threats to impose a €20m fine on a group of investigative reporters.

Finland shamed on racism in EU study

A survey of 12 EU states ranks Finland as the place where people of African descent experience the most abuse, followed by Luxembourg and Ireland.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us