The knots between Italy and France on sea rescues by humanitarian ships have not been resolved at all, today’s summit of European interior ministers in Brussels on the action plan of the EU Commission for the central Mediterranean ended in nothing done and, above all, at sea there are three humanitarian ships with more than 500 migrants on board who have already asked for a safe port without getting an answer.
Beyond the umpteenth outstretched hand of the Italian premier Giorgia Meloni who yesterday in Tirana hinted that there would be the possibility of a meeting with Macron probably already tomorrow at the Alicante summit, the circumstances do not at all seem to be moving in the direction of a recomposition of the relationship between Italy and France cracked by the case of the Ocean Viking, the humanitarian ship that France let land a few weeks ago after Italy’s no.
“ At the moment a formal bilateral meeting is not foreseen in Alicante, obviously they will meet – as specified by the Elysée -. As far as we know, Meloni is still looking for a date for her visit to Paris, for which she has undertaken to work. ” But a piqued reply comes from Palazzo Chigi:“We are not aware of any commitments made by President Meloni for a visit to Paris. Nor has the president received any official invitation, imagining that certain invitations are not made in the press”: thus sources from Palazzo Chigi, questioned by ANSA.
At the center of the clash remains what, according to France, is Italy’s obligation to disembark humanitarian ships with migrants. “To be concrete, today, the question of the application of the law, which is the question that divided us with the Italian authorities last month, has not been resolved – sources from the Elysium say – We have not seen, in any case until this point, changes in the position of the Italian authorities on the application of the law of the flag State. We consider that the law recalls the primary responsibility of the States of the Sar zone”. As if to say that if Italy were to repeat its no to the entry of humanitarian ships into its ports, France would not accept a new showdown.
Italy and France agree on a strategy which, upstream, extends the involvement of the European Union to third countries but the positions remain very distant as soon as it comes to responsibilities for sea rescue and the assignment of the closest safe port. “We are working with third countries to address the issue in a much broader way, i.e. not only between France and Italy, as instead happened with the Ocean Viking episode, when a certain number of third countries, and even European ones, are not been involved in the discussion. Of course, the negotiation did not focus solely on the Mediterranean and arrivals by sea, the migration issue is obviously much broader, but it is very important that all European countries feel their responsibility and commit themselves to constructive way in the discussion”, they concluded in Paris.
A negotiation on which, evidently, Italy’s next moves weigh as it is already preparing for the new tug of war with the humanitarian ships. At the moment there are three at sea: MSF’s Geo Barents, Sos Humanity’s Humanity 1 and Louise Michel, with more than 500 people on board. They have all requested the Pos in Malta being in the Maltese Sar area but from Valletta they have already said no. And the Interior Ministry does not seem willing to change its attitude towards ships which – as Piantedosi says – “carry out rescue operations that are not random but systematic”.