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Migration is threat to EU free travel area, says Italian prime minister

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Monday, 25 June, 2018, 13:25
Migration is threat to EU free travel area, says Italian prime minister

Italy has warned the future of the EU’s border-free travel zone is at stake as it sought to ease the pressure on Mediterranean countries arising from hosting refugees and migrants.

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was speaking at a mini-EU summit in Brussels, where he said a plan from his government presented at the summit represented a paradigm shift in dealing with migration. But his ambitious move to change what he called obsolete EU rules that govern who is responsible for asylum claimants is likely to encounter opposition from other countries.

The 10-point plan by his new populist government revives many ideas proposed by previous Italian governments, such as calling on all EU member states to share responsibility for migrants rescued at sea, and countries being docked EU funds if they refuse to take in refugees.Leaders from 16 EU countries put on a show of unity, as they left an emergency summit in Brussels on Sunday. The unorthodox meeting, boycotted by several EU countries, was called to shore up the conservative coalition government of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, which is riven by a row over migration.Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said the talks had been “frank and open,” although they had not resulted in “any concrete consequences or conclusions”.

The situation echoes the plight of the Aquarius, a rescue boat of 630 migrants that eventually docked in Spain last week, after being turned away by Italy.

Diplomats from France, Spain, Italy and Malta held intense talks about each country taking in people from Lifeline. Meanwhile Sánchez, called on “comrades” in other member states to help Spain, following a recent spike in arrivals.