Italy is currently delaying progress on the last part of the European Union’s primary migration reform, following Germany’s acceptance of a long-awaited agreement.
At a gathering of European Union interior ministers, Rome made a surprising last-minute decision to delay a ruling on the crisis regulation, dashing hopes of reaching an agreement by the day’s end.
However, Ylva Johansson, the EU’s home affairs chief, has assured that EU ambassadors will approve the agreement in the upcoming days.
“We are on the verge of reaching a final decision within the next few days,” stated Johansson during a press conference in Brussels following a meeting with Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez.
The Spanish minister, who is currently presiding over the Council of the EU, stated that “specific details can be adjusted,” and added that they aim to reach a final agreement in the next few days.
Finding a solution to this problem would set the stage for reaching a consensus on the reformation of EU’s asylum policy prior to the upcoming European election in June, following nearly a decade of unsuccessful reform efforts.
According to Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, speaking at a press conference in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Italy has not rejected the proposal but has instead requested more time to review it from a legal perspective.
Even though there was no scheduled vote, the ministers aimed to come to a political consensus at their meeting on Thursday.
Earlier today, the center-left government of Germany withdrew their opposition to the agreement, allowing for a resolution on the crisis regulations that outline how EU countries at borders handle asylum seekers during times of high migration. The Greens, who are a part of the German governing coalition, initially pushed for minors to be exempt from border checks and opposed any efforts to weaken the rights of migrants during times of crisis.
“During a public session in Brussels this morning, Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser informed her fellow EU interior ministers that we will be making this compromise.”
Germany dropping its veto means that technically, the deal should have enough votes to pass. But three diplomats, granted anonymity in order to speak freely, said that without Rome on board, any agreement is politically impossible. Italy has recently seen new peaks of migrant arrivals from North Africa via the Mediterranean Sea.
The Spanish Council presidency made several last-minute compromises in an effort to satisfy the German Greens. Their proposal included stronger protections for migrant human rights. However, two other diplomats stated that Italy expressed hesitation about the revised wording.
According to two diplomats, Italy expressed concerns about the more lenient language regarding migrant rescue operations that was included in the latest version of the agreement, as reported by POLITICO.
These non-governmental organizations pose a challenge for the right-wing government of Italy, as they are in conflict with Berlin regarding the financial support provided by the German government for rescue operations in the waters near Italy.
EU leaders are under increasing pressure to agree on a deal as the number of migrants arriving in Italy continues to rise and with the upcoming European elections next year. The European Parliament recently halted discussions on important aspects of the EU’s migration agreement, such as the crisis regulations, in hopes of pushing member states to approve it quickly.
Reporting from Berlin, Hans Von der Burchard provided contributions.