Open war against the migratory pact just a few days after Germany, which holds the six-month presidency of the European Union, tries to close a principle of agreement. Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta, the so-called front-line countries before the arrival of immigrants to southern Europe, have presented this Wednesday a document that frontally rejects one by one the main points of the agreement proposed by the European Commission at the end of September. The text, endorsed by a letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the four presidents of these countries, considers the migratory pact not only insufficient to guarantee a shared responsibility in the management of irregular migration flows, but also counterproductive for countries that, Due to a mere geographical issue, they are the most affected by number of arrivals.
The Commission proposal establishes roughly a framework of mandatory solidarity between countries on immigration matters, but with several options to channel support: relocate migrants, logistically support countries with more migratory pressure or manage and finance expulsions.
The letter and the document signed by the four southern European countries have been made public within the framework of the Hispano-Italian summit held in Palma de Mallorca between the Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, and the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, accompanied by a twenty ministers from the two countries. Spain and Italy join forces in all European fields and this is one of the most relevant.
After years of tension between the two countries – with Matteo Salvini as Italian Minister of the Interior blocking the arrival of ships, while Spain picked up some of these vessels – Sánchez and Conte now maintain a strong harmony after the departure of the leader of the Government League Italian. Both countries are pushing to completely change the immigration pact, although in the text sent to Berlin they admit that it will not be easy. The opposition of the toughest countries predicts many difficulties to this agreement that Chancellor Merkel wants to promote.
The four presidents of the Government – along with Sánchez and Conte, the Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Maltese Robert Abela – warn that the Commission's proposal would lead to the creation of large detention centers for migrants and asylum seekers at border points . And that consequence, they warn, "is unacceptable." The phenomenon has already manifested itself in Greece (the island of Lesbos), Italy (the island of Lampedusa) and, in recent weeks, in the Canary Islands, places that, due to their insular condition, have become the geographical cage of thousands of migrants. The crisis in the Canary Islands has become a priority problem for La Moncloa, which is determined not to transfer immigrants to the Peninsula, the solution proposed by the Canarian leaders, because it believes that this would have an immediate knock-on effect.
In their joint appearance, Sánchez and Conte have been very critical of the European Commission document and have demanded changes. “We cannot accept that immigration is not solved globally. We must respect people's rights, we must fight the mafias, but we also have to work on mechanisms for the distribution of immigrants. It cannot be that a country, due to a geographical issue, assumes all the weight ”, said the Italian. “The document that we have agreed upon is important. The communication from the European Commission is insufficient. Solidarity has to be much clearer. There are countries that only see one side of migration. The control of the borders of Italy and Spain is effective, but what do we do with the immigrants who risk dying at sea? Our document is a brave, audacious proposal that raises a necessary debate ”, concluded Sánchez.
“I know that it is very difficult to achieve convergence on this matter. But the economic agreement of July also seemed impossible. The Dublin agreement on migration must be changed. Some countries have a geographic advantage and feel on the sidelines. But I tell you that this could change. One day emigration may come from the East. That is why solidarity mechanisms must be established. Italy and Spain have the same vision ”, Conte pointed out.
The declaration of the four southern European countries complicates the goal of Germany, which hoped to close a political agreement in the EU Council in mid-December to continue negotiating the pact with the European Parliament in 2021. The objective is to turn the sad page of the migration crisis of 2015, when the Commission proposed a system of distribution of migrants with mandatory quotas by countries to deal with the arrival of more than a million people from Syria. The system was put into operation, despite the clear rejection of countries such as Hungary and Poland, opposed to assuming its quota, but it was not fulfilled with a result well below the proposed objectives – barely one in five asylum applicants were legally displaced from Greece and Italy to the rest of the EU.
Since then, the countries of the Union have voluntarily distributed the people rescued in the Mediterranean. But it is a system that works on a case-by-case basis, causing dramatic humanitarian situations on rescue ships until the distribution is agreed and only applies to those collected on the high seas, a problem that practically only affects Italy and Malta, but not Spain or Greece.
These four countries are now facing a common front to demand a predictable, permanent solidarity mechanism that guarantees the contribution of all member states. The document describes as "pure fiction" the fact that the Commission bases its pact on the premise that only people who have the right to asylum or who arrive with proper papers will enter Europe. "It is not realistic and it will not work," say the four countries with the most experience in irregular migration by land or sea, claiming that they alone cannot take on this crisis.