French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged to work together to curb illegal migration as they seek to improve ties after a stretch of tense relations.
(Bloomberg) — French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged to work together to curb illegal migration as they seek to improve ties after a stretch of tense relations.
The two countries backed quick implementation of a European Union plan to manage the inflow and transfer of migrants, counter smugglers with stronger air and sea surveillance, and deepen partnerships with departure countries such as Tunisia and Libya to fight people smugglers.
Boatloads of migrants arriving from North Africa on Italy’s Lampedusa island have inflamed intra-EU tension. Italy is calling for European solidarity as EU rules require registration of asylum seekers in the country where they first arrive. Macron has floated police cooperation and a joint budget.
“The exceptional situation in Lampedusa mandates a united European-wide response and leads us all to show solidarity with Italy,” the French president told reporters after a summit with seven other European countries in Malta on Friday.
Macron and Meloni have previously clashed on issues from migration to French corporate acquisitions in Italy. In 2019, France recalled its ambassador to Rome after the foreign minister in a previous Italian government met with Yellow Vests protesters demonstrating against Macron.
“We need to fight illegal migration without compromise,” Meloni said. “Smugglers cannot be the one who decide who can enter and who can’t enter in Italy.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has presented a 10-point plan including support for managing the inflow and transfer of migrants, as well as countering smugglers by bolstering air and sea surveillance.
Under provisions adopted by a majority of EU nations in June, member states can choose whether to host migrants or provide a financial or non-financial contribution instead. The issue will be discussed at an informal EU summit next week in Granada, Spain, and possibly when EU leaders meet in Brussels this month.
Poland and Hungary have been particularly critical of the EU plan to relocate migrants, with Warsaw arguing that it has already hosted large numbers of war refugees from Ukraine. It’s even more contentious as elections in Poland near, people familiar with the discussions said.
Macron and Meloni met in Rome on Tuesday following the funeral of former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, meeting for 90 minutes without delegations present. They chiefly discussed migration and collaboration on economic policy, according to people familiar with the matter.
After the meeting, a Macron adviser said that Meloni and Macron shared a common vision on migration and that Meloni had clearly taken full responsibility for managing the arrivals in Lampedusa. The person, who asked not to be identified in line with government policy, praised Meloni for her pro-European stance and her efforts to work with EU partners.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin sparked tensions in May when he slammed Meloni’s “far-right” government for being “incapable of fixing Italy’s migration problems.” That led to the cancellation of a meeting of Italian and French foreign ministers.
Macron has been working on a new immigration law that would open the door to economic migrants while making it easier to expel those who are undocumented.
“We can’t take in all the world’s misery,” Macron said in a television interview on Sunday.
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