ROME – Italy postponed high-level talks with France on Wednesday after Paris branded Rome irresponsible for refusing to take in a migrant rescue ship. Italy's new economy minister shelved a meeting with his French counterpart in Paris as their countries traded barbs over the treatment of more than 600 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast at the weekend. The migrants were stranded on the NGO vessel Aquarius until Spain said the ship could land at its port of Valencia. It is expected to arrive there late on Saturday. French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy's new populist government of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for closing its ports to the 629 migrants.
The leaders of Italy and France have urged the European Union to set up asylum processing centres in Africa to prevent refugees and migrants from undertaking the journey across the Mediterranean. French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy's new populist Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met in Paris on Friday in a bid to bury the hatchet after a bitter diplomatic squabble erupted this week over Rome's refusal to accept the Aquarius, a refugee and migrant rescue ship, at its ports. "We should create European centres in the countries of departure," Conte told a press conference, referring to African nations that have seen an exodus towards Europe in recent years. His comments were echoed by Macron, who told reporters he supported the idea of "branches of our asylum agencies to tackle this question on the other side" of the Mediterranean. The two leaders also called for changes to the European Union's asylum rules, which put the migrant burden on their port of entry to Europe - mainly Italy and Greece.
BRUSSELS – Germany and France pushed Sunday for new solutions to the migration crisis as bickering among European Union leaders left boats carrying hundreds of African migrants adrift at sea. Sixteen of the EU's 28 leaders held emergency talks in Brussels to find a way forward despite a longstanding deadlock over who should take in migrants and refugees who land in Italy and other European countries. Hundreds of people fleeing conflict and persecution at home are caught in the midst of a worsening row over how to deal with the influx against a backdrop of mass drownings in the Mediterranean in recent years. Italy, a country on the front line of the crisis, has turned away rescue vessels, with its new populist government demanding greater solidarity from reluctant fellow EU states. One boat, the Lifeline, remained in limbo on Sunday with 239 Africans aboard, including pregnant women and children, with Malta and Italy refusing to take it in, after the Aquarius suffered a similar fate until it was allowed to dock in Spain.
ROME – French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called Wednesday for a reform of Europe's "ineffective" EU immigration policy, bemoaning a lack of solidarity as they met to turn the page on Italy's previous anti-migrant populist government. "The European Union hasn't shown enough solidarity with countries handling first arrivals, notably Italy," Macron said after talks with Conte, in charge of a week-old government after far-right leader Matteo Salvini brought down the last one. "France is ready to develop this in the framework of overhauling the Dublin accords," under the auspices of the European Commission, said Macron, referring to the EU regulation that assigns responsibility for migrants to the nation of first entry. Macron called for an agreement in which all EU countries would take part "or be punished financially," echoing an Italian demand. Italy and Malta are usually the first ports of call for migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe, but the two countries complain that they bear an unfair share of responsibility.
EU leaders are meeting in Brussels for two days of talks on migration that German Chancellor Angela Merkel described as "make-or-break" for the union. Members have disagreed over dealing with refugees and accepting migrants. The EU leaders are deeply divided over how to handle the flow of Europe-bound refugees and migrants, despite a significant drop in arrivals this year. They will also discuss security, trans-Atlantic trade and their troubled ties with US President Donald Trump, economic sanctions on Russia, the bloc's next long-term budget from 2021, the eurozone reform and Brexit, among others. Italy's hardline new premier threatened on Thursday to block a joint EU statement on migration.