The EU Commission President announced tougher action against smugglers. She also wants to monitor the Mediterranean more closely. In return, she is getting tailwind from Germany.
Thousands of migrants have arrived on the small Mediterranean island of Lampedusa in the past few days. For years, the island has symbolized the entire dilemma of European migration policy.
Von der Leyen wants to prevent this – and for this she needs Italy, which is one of the EU states on the external border of the union, where many migrants set foot on European soil for the first time. Meloni, in turn, is under massive domestic political pressure to reduce the number of refugees. In 2022, during the election campaign, she promised in shrill tones to massively restrict migration to Italy – now the Mediterranean country is recording record numbers of arrivals.
The Mediterranean should be better monitored
Both traveled to the Italian island together on Sunday. After a visit to the initial reception center and the pier intended for migrant arrivals, von der Leyen presented a 10-point plan against illegal migration in Lampedusa on Sunday, which should also assure Italy of support.
She announces greater surveillance of the Mediterranean, better training for the Tunisian coast guard and tougher action against the “brutal” business of smugglers. In addition, “legal routes and humanitarian corridors” into the EU should be created.
For her part, Meloni makes it diplomatically but unmistakably clear that she expects a radical turnaround at the EU level. And she also wants to take a tougher approach against migrants who are already in the country.
The cabinet of your right-wing government coalition is expected to initiate appropriate measures as early as this Monday. Before von der Leyen’s visit, she called for an EU mission in a video to prevent migrants from crossing – if necessary with the use of the navy. On Sunday, the ultra-right politician made it clear again that preventing the crossings was the only conceivable option for her. Continuing to talk about redistributing people won’t solve the problem, she says.
Still no agreement on EU asylum policy
To date, the EU states have not managed to pass a comprehensive reform of the European asylum system. The EU asylum policy should actually be reformed by the upcoming elections in mid-2024. In June there was also an agreement between the EU interior ministers. Asylum procedures should therefore be significantly tightened. The proposal – especially the solidarity mechanism it envisages – is met with rejection by some states.
It is not just states on the EU’s external borders, such as Italy and Greece, that are affected by migration. “If we do not take serious and joint action against illegal crossings, the numbers of this phenomenon will first overwhelm the states at the external borders, but then all the others,” said Meloni. The focus is also on countries that are the destination of a particularly high number of asylum seekers – Germany is at the forefront here.
The Federal Minister of the Interior supports von der Leyen’s idea
Like Meloni in Italy, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), who is responsible for German migration policy, is also under pressure. In the first eight months of this year, more than 204,000 people in this country applied for asylum for the first time, around 77 percent more than in the same period last year.
Faeser supported Commission President von der Leyen’s proposal to increase surveillance of the EU’s external border in the Mediterranean by air and sea. “Yes, we won’t be able to do it any other way,” said the Interior Minister on Sunday evening in the ARD “Report from Berlin”. “Otherwise we won’t be able to get the migration situation under control.”