Thursday

24th May 2018

Merkel, Renzi agree basics of Africa plan

  • Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi met in Rome on 5 May. (Photo: Palazzo Chigi)

German chancellor Angela Merkel said she supports an Italian plan on stemming migration flows from Africa, but disagrees on how it should be financed.

EU leaders flocked to Rome on Thursday (5 May) for a debate on the state of Europe.

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Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi took the opportunity to meet with Merkel and push for his solutions to the migration situation.

Ever since Turkey helped to seal the Aegean passage to Greece, Italy has become the principal country of arrival for migrants. Almost 29 000 people have crossed the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year.

Renzi’s plan is to discourage future flows with a ”migration compact" - a well-financed European effort to help grow African economies. In exchange, African states would cooperate better with the EU on border management and security.

The idea was well received by Merkel. She said €1 billion should be devoted to a long-term EU response to the exodus of people fleeing poverty and conflict.

But the German chancellor was not convinced that the idea could be financed by common eurobonds, as Renzi had suggested.

"If we concentrate on the European budget, we will find [money]," she said.

Renzi said that Italy is ”not in love” with eurobonds and won’t insist on a specific form of financing the proposal.

"We are in love with the idea that the migration compact can help Africa" he said.

He also secured Merkel’s support in an ongoing border confrontation between Italy and Austria.

Many migrants travel to other countries after reaching Italian shores. In order to stop them from coming, Austria’s government would like to impose checks at the Brenner pass that connects the two countries in the Alps.

Building walls inside the EU is not a response, Merkel said.

"Europe must defend the Schengen Agreement or risk falling back into separate nationalism. The very future of Europe is at stake," she told journalists.

”We must remain loyal to one another.”

On Friday, EU leaders meet with pope Francis who will receive the so called Charlemagne prize for his efforts to keep Europe united.

The Argentinian pontiff has previously criticised EU leaders for not doing enough to help people fleeing wars.

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