Interview with the minister: common rules on asylum and repatriation. White House: EU must stop traffickers
“The horror of the lorry has convinced hawks, Europe has understood this is everyone’s tragedy”
Paolo Gentiloni, Minister for Foreign Affairs: “The tragedy of Austria is proof that the migration emergency is not ours alone. Members must not be held hostage by those who disseminate fear”
Europe needs asylum laws valid for all Member States. Brussels must take charge of repatriation.
Even governments that have resisted the idea of redistributing refugees are changing their minds.
The European dream became a nightmare with a horrible ending in the hold of a lorry. Minister Gentiloni, are these deaths on Europe’s conscience?
“Certainly they are on our conscience, as are the deaths in the Mediterranean. I was in Vienna when the tragedy came to light, for a European/Balkan summit. It was enough to look into the faces of my colleagues to understand that we are all involved. Until a short time ago, the general idea was that this was an Italian and Greek emergency, but in recent weeks awareness has spread that the problem involves Europe entirely”.
But could those atrocious deaths have been avoided?
“These tragedies must be avoided. We have been working for a year and a half, with search and rescue operations at sea, and have saved over 100,000 human lives. Italy has been cited as an example by the international community, and the navies of other countries are now participating in Mediterranean operations. But even if we save 100,000 human lives, we are not always able to save everyone”.
Is the lorry incident a new warning signal?
“It is an indication that the emergency has become a European one. Tragic events of this sort are taking place too often, every day in Macedonia*.
Italy and Greece are doing their part, but are still behind in terms of reception centres. Have our partners been critical?
“Absolutley not. Italy is doing its part and, as Chancellor Merkel underscored, Rome and Berlin are pushing for compliance on all points of the agenda”.
But is every country ready to do its part?
“Perceptions have changed significantly over the past two months. Even governments that resisted the principal of redistributing the refugees, such as Austria and Slovenia, are changing their positions”.
Polish president Duda has said he wants to “help the refugees at home”; Slovakia has made it known it wishes to help only Christian refugees; Hungary, where the flight of East Germans that began in 1989 led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, is now building a wall along its opposite border. What can be done to convince our more reluctant partners?
«It is my hope that they will soon change their minds, and that they will not need an emergency on their doorstep to have their eyes opened to what is obvious to everyone”.
Is there a risk that Europe, caught between the refugee emergency and the threat of terrorism, will react out of fear and double-lock the doors, refusing to take up the challenge of openness that made the United States’ fortune?
“Both Renzi and Merkel have sent a message loud and clear: democracy, civility and the European economy cannot be held hostage by right-wing minorities or by the idea that those that ride the crest of fear will reap its electoral rewards. There are three very simple steps that Europe has to take: 1) acknowledge the permanent nature – for at least 10-15 years – and, from some viewpoints, even the necessity of migrations, which obviously need to be regulated. 2) work on the causes: a Europe/Africa summit is to be held in November in Malta to set investments and projects in motion in countries of transit and crisis. 3) change the tune on the rules and policies of reception”.
Should the Treaty of Dublin be changed?
“Norms conceived 25 years ago need modifying, with the gradual introduction of a revolutionary concept: migrants are no longer entering Italy, Greece, Hungary, or wherever geography or destiny lands them, but Europe. This means that there has to be a European asylum law valid for all countries. It must be the Union that establishes which are the so-called safe countries, and which instead are those whose populations must be guaranteed international protection”.
And from this what follows?
“For instance, that repatriations are handled at European level. And obviously there has to be a balanced distribution of refugees, without which the greater pressure could shift from countries of arrival, such as Italy and Greece, to countries where social welfare systems are more generous, like Sweden and Germany”.
That would go for those already here, but what must be done to manage migrant flows?
“Legal immigration channels have to be created, because Europe needs some types of labourers. Above all, there has to be a greater determination to counter the barbarity of slavery. Even as Europe works to meet the challenge, people trafficking is escalating, to the point that departures from the Libyan coasts in increasingly unreliable, unseaworthy vessels have multiplied, with the most miserable locked below in their holds. The first phase of the EUNAVFOR MED mission has concluded; the EU must now launch a debate on successive phases”.