It’s been over two years since the migrant crisis began, and beyond the statements of intent, the interaction between Rome and Brussels continues to be a dialogue of the deaf. Or at least with some of the European institutions, such as the EU Council.
On Wednesday in Brussels, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni raised the pitch in a summit of heads of state and government, suggesting the meeting will not be a picnic for everyone. “We must move very quickly toward a common policy for Africa,” he said. ”We have opened a road by accepting our responsibilities. We just want to know whether the European Union is on this road, at the political level and with its resources, or whether we should continue to get by on our own.”
Also on Wednesday, there was another international conference on immigration held in Brussels. This meeting was requested by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as an instrument of pressure on European leaders who will discuss, among other issues on the agenda, Brexit, security and immigration.
“We can not waste any time, we need to act quickly and with determination,” said Tajani, as he opened the conference which was also attended by President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, the High Representative of Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini, the E.U. commissioner of Immigration Dimitri Avramopoulos and the Libyan leader Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj (it might be a coincidence but the president of the European Council Donald Tusk was invited, but he did not show up).
And perhaps for this reason, Tajani did not like the statements by the Italian Prime Minister: “Speaking about Europe is too general. Gentiloni should blame his fellow heads of state and government.”
And this might actually happen in the coming hours. The topics of reform — the European right to asylum and reallocation — are quite controversial. It is at least very likely to be a confrontation, especially with the four Visegrad countries, which are not happy at all with the infringement procedure launched against Hungary and Poland for not having accepted even one refugee so far. On the Dublin Regulation, which establishes the E.U. country responsible for deciding asylum cases, Tajani praised the reform prepared by Juncker’s Commission and announced that the parliament is ready to approve it by the summer. Then it has to be seen if it passes the scrutiny of the E.U. Council, but especially if it will overcome the hypocrisy of the “flexible solidarity” proposed by Eastern Europe that continues to penalize the countries of first landing.
At the summit on Thursday, Italy presented a package of proposals that the prime minister has discussed in recent days with President Sergio Mattarella, including, if confirmed, the new rule according to which migrants saved in the Sicily Channel can also be landed in another European country, and not only in Italy as is currently the procedure. It’s enough to make the atmosphere incandescent.
But the European debate on immigration is increasingly focused on what happens on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. “The real point is the massive investment on development in Africa,” explained Mogherini during her talking points at the Brussels conference. The representative of E.U. foreign policy added: “A European plan for economic and social development is essential for the fight against terrorism and against climate change, for democracy and human rights.”
That seems to be the consensus among all parties, including the E.U. Council. In the past few weeks, the German chancellor asked for a conference on Africa held in Berlin. And the continent will be the focus of the next G20 meeting, to be held on July 7 in Hamburg, under the German presidency.
Chancellor Merkel wanted this attention (she has already allocated €300 million for training and employment projects intended initially for Tunisia, Ghana and Morocco) and Gentiloni fully agrees with it. Even Tajani stressed that investing in the countries of origin and transit of migrants could help to limit the flows into Europe, explaining how the Fund for Africa can reach up to €40 billion to be allocated for investments. “If we do not act now, we risk having tens of millions of people flowing from Africa,” he added.
But would that really be a problem? According to some studies, due to its aging population, Europe will need at least 100 million migrants by 2050 to avoid economic collapse. From this point of view, the issue has a completely different tone.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.