Italy’s populist government threatens to veto EU migration plan if it isn't tough enough

EU leaders meeting in Brussels to hammer out solution

Jon Stone
Thursday 28 June 2018 19:14 BST
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrives at the European Council summit in Brussels
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrives at the European Council summit in Brussels (Reuters)

Italy’s new populist prime minister has threatened to veto an EU plan to tackle migration if it does not provide “concrete” policies to reduce the flow of refugees and migrants.

European leaders are meeting in Brussels for a two-day summit with migration at the top of the agenda, with German chancellor Angela Merkel warning the issue is “make or break” for the EU ahead of the meeting.

EU officials have floated the vague idea of “disembarkation platforms” to process asylum applications in north African countries like Libya before those people travel to Europe.

The plan draws inspiration from proposals by countries with populist governments such as Italy and Hungary, who have suggested more offshore processing of applications and tougher border controls.

But the council is trying to balance the approach of those governments that want more border controls with the demands of some leaders such as Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez, who wants more redistribution of migrants from the southern countries where they arrive to the north of the bloc.

Warning about the possibility of failure, Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, said: “If this time we do not find any willingness from other EU countries, this council could end without the approval of shared conclusions.”

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for a balanced approach, telling reporters: “I do sympathise with Italy that they are the moment first of all are facing this whole burden. But I also want them to understand that collectively we have to work on this primary migration flow while also working on the secondary migration.”

Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban branding the refugees an “invasion”.

“We will do what the people really request: I think the people request two things. First is no more migrants coming in, so stop them. And the second is those who are in should [go] back,” he said.

“That’s what the people will. In order to restore the European democracy, we have to move to that direction. I hope that that will happen today.

“The invasion should be stop and to stop the invasion means strong border control and we do stop that.”

Leaders are under pressure to agree a resolution, with discussions expected to stretch out to the last available minute. EU officials said ahead of the summit that they believed all 28 countries could be satisfied by proposals.

Despite the focus on migration, the flow of refugees to Europe has actually significantly reduced in recent years compared to 2015. However, electoral gains for anti-immigration parties in the EU’s core such as in Italy, Austria and Germany have pushed the subject up the agenda.

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