24th Feb 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Greek EU commissioner challenges bribery allegations

Dimitris Avramopoulos says he will mount a legal challenge to reveal the identities of people behind allegations that he, along with other former Greek ministers, had accepted money from a Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

Data privacy chiefs wary of lagging EU states

EU data protection chiefs are worried member states won't be ready when a new wide-sweeping general data protection regulation goes live on 25 May. National laws still need to be passed to ensure data authorities can enforce the regulation EU-wide.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table