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Moavero: “European Web-Tax for migrants” (La Stampa)

The conclusions of the European summit held the other night in Brussels are spread open and in order on the table, with parts highlighted in yellow and notes in red.

Enzo Moavero  waves them to express his firm belief that, despite the abundant criticisms, the meeting in the Belgian capital went fairly well, because «the conclusions of the summit are the first structured joint result for a possible shared European policy on migration». Of course much more could have been done, the Minister of Foreign Affairs says, «as such a dramatic challenge requires daring changes capable of producing more direct measures». Nonetheless, we reached «a shared basis that opens to practical shared developments». If the conclusions work, it will mean that «the States have accepted the policies adopted by the European Council». Otherwise, «we will go back to shifting responsibilities, arm wrestling and negotiating each boat at a time». Moavero is convinced that «Europe could suffer from a bad fall should it be incapable to be consistent with the intents and the policies that the European Council has just put down in writing». In other words, in the light of the request to act on a voluntary basis, «whoever does not accept to set up reception centres, fails the spirit of the summit». However, the atmosphere of the meetings in Brussels has changed, as highlighted by the jurist, who has attended hundreds of twelve-stared meetings. «The divisions are evident and indeed emphasised by the ministers’ greater use of their national language when giving their addresses during the meetings», he says, stating that he sees it as «a sign of change, but not in better». It is cause for concern.

Is Europe risking to collapse?

«No-one has anything to profit from the demolishment of the system of the EU Treaties. It would be foolish, as it would mean returning to the pre-war period, and I do not think this will happen. It is true, though, that we are in the middle of a ford as regards the EU’s political prospects. In particular, the Member States are much more hypersensitive on identity matters, than on economic issues. And this is something not to underestimate».

The summit produced more statements based on principles than practical guidelines.

«From a certain point of view, the conclusions of the meeting highlight that everybody is right and wrong at the same time. However, for the first time, a sort of shared strategy is being outlined. Should a virtuous circle of shared views be triggered, we could reach a true EU migration policy».

And if we fail?

«I hope we don’t. The work to be carried out is complex, but we can bring it to accomplishment. It will take time. The alternative is a non-functioning Europe with a hypersensitive climate of returning nationalisms. This would make the Union grow weak, disappointing the remaining expectations of its citizens».

What are the basic final conclusions of the EU summit?

«They highlight the relevance to begin from an external commitment and they reiterate the crucial importance of both public and private investments in Africa and especially in the migrants’ Countries of origin. The idea is “let’s help them in their home Countries” but with a greater operational strength».

The flows will not stop soon.

«This is the second fundamental aspect. The text adopted reiterates in several parts that it is necessary to fight against smugglers and cooperate with the African Countries. The idea is to set up controlled centres for reception and protection in the Countries of transit and in those along the coasts, with the aim to provide information and assist financially those who intend to return home.

This requires a large amount of money. Where are we going to find it?

«The summit expressed the intention to allocate the necessary resources in the next EU budget. To this regard, I believe we should discuss on how to increase revenues in alternative ways compared to the current ones at the expense of the single States. We could allot the revenue of the European Web-Tax, addressed to the giants of the network that up to now have had the possibility to slalom among the different national fiscal regimes, with distortive effects on the European internal market».

None of the Countries involved are willing to host the reception centres.

«It is necessary to negotiate specific agreements with them, making sure that appropriate humane reception conditions and rights are guaranteed. The leaders’ conclusions invite to carry out a difficult diplomatic and financial work, which however is not at all impossible».

We are talking about medium/long-term objectives. How will the migrants arriving in the summer be managed?

«What can be done immediately is start a broad preliminary work, intensifying investments in Africa and negotiating agreements with the Countries of transit and origin. All this, however, needs to be carried out by Europe in its whole, not as single States. Indeed now, with the European Council’s approval, the situation changes».

Will the NGOs be targeted?

«The NOGs will be subject to a stricter surveillance in order to impede that they may become, deliberately or not, a factor of attraction for smugglers».

Many will be arriving in the upcoming months. Who will be receiving them?

«According to international law, those who are saved at sea must be taken to “secure harbours” ; not necessarily to the “closer” ones, unless there are emergencies. If the EU States opened reception harbours, on a voluntary basis, this would allow to better manage the various situations with a shared effort».

France says “no”, Spain says “neither yes nor no”. That will never do.

«The European Council invites to set up controlled reception centres, funded by the Union, in the UE States  in order to receive and identify migrants and verify who meets the requirements for asylum in Europe. Such decision is to be made on a voluntary basis, which is valid for all. Also for Italy».

The Dublin regulation reform requires unanimity. Is it a only dream?

«The debate has already been launched. “Dublin” regulates asylum procedures. What I mentioned before concerning the text of the European Council can reduce the number of arrivals in a single EU Country, divide the responsibilities among the States and thus allow procedures to be swifter».

There was a lot of irritation at the summit. Also toward Italy that raised its voice.

«Actually, there were two types of irritation. One came from a sense of helplessness and from a Europe ill at ease on such a sensitive issue. The other, I believe, should be interpreted as a reaction in negotiating with the latest government arrived, ours, that chose to enter the game immediately and fully, not turning its back on the positions it had decided hold. In front of decisions made by others and which we did not share, we could not be “Alice in Wonderland.” Therefore, for example, we stated that we had no intention to agree on the single chapters of the text of the conclusions until we agreed on all of them. It is a classical situation of complex negotiations».

Are there any deteriorated relations?

«Not at all. We interfaced well with everybody, even during the meetings held on the sidelines of the summit. We made proposals and found support. This is something that not always can be taken for granted. We had no sterile quarrels. Beyond all speculation, for sure we did not support the Visegrad Countries, actually the opposite…».

What is your position toward the Franco-German axis?

«We intend to sit at all tables, be they collective or restricted, as long as they are constructive. We do not suffer from the complex of the club of “the big ones”. We are interested in practical results, not in the scene and empty talk. The synergies are what truly matters, and for the Central Mediterranean it is essential to be coordinated with France, Malta, Spain and with the North African Countries».

Salvini spoke out with a fiery tone. How are the relations with the Minister of Interior?

«We speak often. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is always informed and our respective roles are well distinct. I am pleased with the excellent dialogue developed within the Government».