Friday

26th Feb 2021

Italy to take in migrants after all

  • Foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi's announcement was a U-turn on Matteo Salvini, the hard-right interior minister (Photo: Flickr)

Italy has announced a U-turn on migrants, amid wider confusion on fiscal and foreign policy.

"Italy will guarantee the landing in their ports of all the people saved by the military ships" of Operation Sophia (an EU naval mission off the coast of Libya), Italian foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said in Berlin on Monday (22 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Salvini pledged to expel Roma from Italy's capital city (Photo: gnuckx)

This offer was valid for just five or so weeks to give the EU time to draft new rules, which currently say people rescued by Sophia automatically go to Italy.

But the decision showed "the will of our government to work on common positions with EU and Nato partners," Milanesi said.

"We expect all EU states to respect existing agreements. Rescues at sea are part of it," his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, noted.

Milanesi's announcement came after Italy's powerful interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said Sophia and other rescue ships were no longer welcome.

He stayed quiet on migrants on Monday, but he attacked EU fiscal rules amid plans for tax cuts by Italy's populist government.

"If we have to go above those [EU deficit] limits for the good of the Italians, that won't be a problem for us," Salvini told reporters in Milan.

"Brussels needs to review its rules. Tax cuts? They will be in the next budget adjustment," he said the same day in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily.

His comments, in turn, contradicted Giovanni Tria, Italy's finance minister, who had said that "staying within those [EU] budget limits [was] needed to preserve market confidence and avoid instability."

Overspending would increase Italy's cost of borrowing, he also warned at a meeting of the Group of 20 wealthy nations in Argentina on Sunday.

Salvini's far-right League party took office together with 5 Star Movement, a populist party, in May.

They put junior figures, such as Milanesi, a former law professor, and Tria, an economist, in big jobs, creating space for Salvini to aggrandise his role.

But the set-up has created fuzzy communications and unpredictability, amid speculation that Salvini might try to seize full power in new elections.

The blur continued on foreign policy on Monday.

"We believe that the rules of international law must be respected," on Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Milanesi said in Berlin.

"The position of the Italian government has been expressed in the acts put in place at the last European Council," he added, referring to a recent EU decision to uphold Russia sanctions.

He spoke after Salvini said Italy was "not afraid" to veto those sanctions while in Moscow last week.

Salvini, whose party has surged in polls to first place in the past two months, also baited the EU by pledging to empty Roma camps in the Italian capital.

"In Rome, the situation on the Roma is a total mess, with thousands of people there: My goal is to reach zero Roma camps," he said on Monday, in the teeth of EU rules against discrimination on grounds of ethnicity.

Investigation

How Italy's government might hijack EU migration policy

Matteo Salvini promises to send record numbers of migrants packing. However, that quickly comes up against the cost, logistics, and diplomacy, of how such a threat would be carried out - and the price for the EU as a whole.

EU to restrict refugee resettlement options

The European Commission unveiled concept papers on centres in the EU and platforms in north African states where disembarked migrants would be screened for protection or sent home. Plans build on EU summit conclusions but remain vague.

EU still not clear on where to put rescued migrants

The mandate for Operation Sophia, the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean sea, ends in December. Demands to change it, including new rules on disembarkation, are set to be agreed within the next few weeks.

News in Brief

  1. Rights group exposes Ethiopia massacre
  2. US carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria
  3. Malta closes investigation into journalist murder
  4. Dutch parliament calls China treatment of Uighurs genocide
  5. Spain fined €15m by ECJ over data failures
  6. Belarus: Anti-government protester jailed for 10 years
  7. German charged with spying for Russia in Bundestag
  8. Heavy earthquakes in Iceland trigger volcanic activity

EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex

MEPs are drumming up support for an inquiry into the EU's controversial border and coast guard agency, Frontex. So far, the Greens, the left-wing GUE, and Renew Europe are on board - amid expectations the centre-left S&D will also join.

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Armenia 'coup' shows waning of EU star in South Caucasus
  2. 'Difficult weeks' ahead, as variants spread across EU
  3. EU top court advised to strike down Hungary's asylum policy
  4. Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency
  5. Is EU poised to solve child labour in 'green' batteries?
  6. The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them
  7. Who are the EU's new Russian deplorables?
  8. Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us