Agnès Poirier: Both leaders are prisoners of a resurgent right wing

Share
Related Topics

Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy haven't agreed on very much about immigration of late, but yesterday they found common cause on at least one point: the Schengen agreement needs to change.

Since it was first put in place in 1995, 25 European states – with the notable exception of Britain – signed a deal creating free circulation within Europe for its citizens, but also for whoever had a travel permit to one of those countries. The accord was heralded as a great step forward, a cornerstone of an integrated Europe.

That consensus no longer stands. For while France and Italy agree that the deal is no good, they have very different ideas on how its terms should be implemented.

Since Tunisia's Jasmine revolution in December, Italy has seen 25,000 Tunisians arriving on its shore, all looking for a job. Unable to stem the tide, the Berlusconi administration has found a simple way of defusing the issue. Italy issued thousands of travel permits, thus allowing immigrants to travel freely within Europe. Many Tunisians being francophone, their first destination is often France.

The Sarkozy government objects to the way Mr Berlusconi is trying to "resolve" the problem by passing the bucket to another member state. However, on arriving in France, Tunisians have suddenly realised that their Italian travel permit doesn't amount to much because French police require them to hold a passport and have proof of an income.

With the next presidential elections looming in France, and an increasingly vocal National Front, Mr Sarkozy has to be seen to be acting tough on what many consider in France to be plain economic immigration (as opposed to political asylum, which at the moment befits Libyans rather than Tunisians). Mr Berlusconi is also the hostage of his coalition partner, the ever-stronger Lega Nord, another extreme right political party for whom immigration is a key electoral issue.

Whatever happens next, the imperative for both leaders yesterday was to avoid appearing to give ground to the other. They have both advocated special clauses "in exceptional circumstances" and a temporary return to border controls to monitor the ebb and flow of migrants from North Africa. With the events taking place in that part of the world, these "exceptional circumstances", even if agreed between the 25 states, might become more than temporary.

Agnès Poirier is a journalist and author of 'Touché: A Frenchwoman's Take On The English'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker