“Today Italy is no longer alone. We are satisfied,” Conte told reporters after an all-night summit in Brussels during which he had vetoed a joint statement until he won concessions from the other 27 leaders, reports AFP. Italy's new populist Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed the agreement on Friday June 29th, stating that his country was “no longer alone” after securing a deal with EU leaders for steps to tackle migration.
The agreement will see several major changes to the former policy, whereby migrants arriving in the EU had to be registered in their country of arrival.
“A new approach has been adopted regarding sea rescues: from now on we foresee actions based on sharing and therefore coordinated among the Member States,” reads the agreed document, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
EU28 leaders have agreed on #euco conclusions incl. migration.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) June 29, 2018
The new approach envisages a more coordinated approach to resettling refugees in the EU, as well as new rules for NGO rescue ships operating in the Mediterranean.
A key concession that the populist Italian government managed to extract from its EU partners is how rescue missions should be governed. “All the ships that cross the Mediterranean, therefore also NGO vessels, must respect the laws and must not interfere with the operations of the Libyan Coast Guard,” states the document, according to Italian daily Repubblica.
The new protocol also saw EU-wide agreement for more structural funds for the countries of departure in North and West Africa, as well as the establishment of registration centres in the actual countries of departure, adds Repubblica's report.
“Today is an important step because we have succeeded in obtaining a European solution and a work of cooperation,” said French President Emmanuel Macron of the agreement. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel however remained unconvinced.
“After an intense discussion on the most difficult issue for the European Union, that is migration, the fact of having agreed on a common text is a good sign. But we still have a lot of work to do to overcome the divisions,” said Chancellor Merkel.
News of the EU agreement comes as the Libyan coast guard announced on Friday that more than 100 people are missing at sea after a boat capsized in the Mediterranean, reports Repubblica. Italy's ports will remain closed to NGO rescue vessels throughout the summer, adds that report.
European leaders have also asked the EU Commission to consider the possibility of holding centres in African countries to register migrants pre-arrival, although Tunisia has said it would not accept such a proposal.