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‘A turning point’: Italy praises plan to overhaul Europe’s asylum rules

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday welcomed a plan to change the so-called Dublin Regulation on how asylum claims are processed in the European Union, describing it as a "turning point".

'A turning point': Italy praises plan to overhaul Europe's asylum rules
Rescued migrants in Palermo, Sicily, on September 2nd, 2020. Photo: AFP
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen vowed on Wednesday to “abolish” the existing rules, which require asylum seekers to file their claims in the first EU country where they set foot.
 
Rome has long argued that this is unfair, as those who attempt the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing to Europe land on its shores or have to be rescued off its coasts.
 
 
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Brussels. Photo: AFP
 
Leyen's announcement “gives us great pleasure,” Conte said, answering a question from journalists during a visit to a school in the capital..
 
“Italy has worked towards this a lot, because we consider the agreement (the Dublin Regulation) to be to the detriment of the countries of first-entry
landings,” he said.
 
“This is a turning point,” he added.
 
 
Greece also welcomed plans to update the rules, with migration minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos saying Thursday the Dublin Regulation “has failed and
must be changed”.
 
The Dublin Regulation came into force in 2013 as an agreement between the then-28 members of the EU including Britain, as well as Switzerland, Iceland,
Norway and Liechtenstein.
 
But its weaknesses were quickly exposed by the migration crisis of 2015, stoking anger in Greece and Italy where governments felt they had been left to
face the challenge alone.

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Since coming to power in 2019, Italy's current government has been pushing for a new, automatic system for distributing migrants rescued in the Mediterranean between European countries.

Such a deal would put an end to case-by-case negotiations over who will take those saved during the perilous crossing from North Africa, which have left vulnerable asylum seekers trapped in limbo at sea for lengthy periods.

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POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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