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Macron: Italy, Malta must know who'll take rescued migrants

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks with the media after a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk at the EU Council building in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
September 18, 2019 - 2:06 PM

ROME - France's president assured Italy's new government Wednesday night that he is working for a standing arrangement under which European Union nations would take a share of rescued migrants, seeking to avoid standoffs at sea aboard humanitarian boats that Italian and Maltese authorities refuse to let dock.

President Emmanuel Macron delivered the assurance to Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, whose new governing new coalition has been demanding help on migrants from EU partners.

"I am convinced that we need an automatic European mechanism of taking in the migrants that would permit Malta and Italy (to know) that before they arrive, the migrants are taken on," Macron told reporters as he was flanked by Conte at the premier's office in Chigi Palace.

Italy's new and previous two governments contend rescue ships can facilitate human traffickers' smuggling of migrants aboard unseaworthy boats from their bases in Libya to European shores.

"It's essential for the EU to turn a page in the direction of a structural management and no longer an emergency management of the flows" of migrants, Conte said.

"I received the full openness of Macron for a European mechanism for disembarkation, on redistributing (migrants) and for an effective handling of repatriations" of those denied asylum, he added.

His efforts to secure more support from other EU leaders could go more smoothly now that virulently anti-migrant League party leader Matteo Salvini abandoned the premier's first coalition government.

Earlier this month, the left-leaning Democrats, who have pressed for a more open approach in managing migrant arrivals, replaced the League in Conte's two-week-old coalition government, whose senior partner is the populist 5-Star Movement.

France has pushed for the EU to show solidarity with Italy by adopting a system that determines what happens to migrants after sea rescues.

A meeting next week in Malta of the interior ministers for Italy, France and some other countries will test whether ringing appeals by political leaders can be turned into concrete policies for stable European co-operation on migration.

In ad hoc solutions to several standoffs over where rescued migrants would end up, a handful of EU member nations, including France and Germany, offered to take a share of those stranded on aid organization vessels that weren't allowed to disembark passengers in Italy.

French-Italian diplomatic relations sank to perhaps the lowest point since World War II earlier this year over a perceived affront to Macron's government. The insult involved 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio meeting with French activists who were galvanizing the anti-government yellow vest demonstrations.

France temporarily recalled its ambassador from Rome to protest what it viewed as Italian meddling in French domestic politics.

"Sometimes we're not in agreement. It can happen that we fight and don't understand each other, but then we get back together always," Macron said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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