Migration, here we go again. The Italian government didn’t waste time to instigate fear from asylum seekers by warning about an upcoming invasion. The minister for Foreign Affairs Enzo Moavero Milanesi, informed the European Commission about concerns in Italy for the possibility of mass flows due to instability in Libya. A letter was sent to Brussels, in a clear move driven by the logics of the electoral campaign. Indeed there is no need to confer with the executive body of the EU on a matter under the responsibility of the EU Council.
This is exactly what Brussels replied to Rome. “It is not the European Commission the obstacle to a proper balance between solidarity and responsibility in the domain of migration”, the deputy chief spokeswoman of the European Commission, Mina Andreeva, commented. “It is better for Italy to send the letter to the member states”.
Migration is about member states
What Andreeva said is nothing but the truth. In Europe migration policy is not within the competence of the European Commission. According to article 79 and 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the policies of the European Union on migration are adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Once adopted, the implementation of the rules “shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the member states”.
“Between member states”. So, migration is about member States. In case of lack political will, solidarity is empty words. What the European Commission can do is just to try to coordinate, but Italy wants from it things it cannot offer.
Blame the EU
The point is minister Moavero Milanesi is supposed to know all that. He is, after all, professor of European Law and Director of the School of Law at The Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali (LUISS). And he is, also, a visiting professor at the College of Europe. Why such a knowledgeable person sends a letter to the wrong addressee? The answer is simple: he was asked to do it.
The risk of a new wave of migrants coming from Libya is likely. It would be a catastrophe for the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, a man who built his political fortune refusing migrants, if a new migration crisis erupted during the electoral campaign. Showing Italians that Italy asked the European Commission to help the country without receiving any sort of help, Salvini can blame Europe in case things turn badly.
Italy is alone by EU law
Salvini plays with Italians’ ignorance of the EU legislation. Even in case of crisis, it is the member state to bear the burden. Article 33 of the Dublin regulation, foresees “a mechanism for early warning, preparedness and crisis management” in case of “particular pressure” on a member state. In that case the Commission can try to coordinate the activity in order to deal with the extraordinary situation, but in any case it is up to the country to come up with a “preventive action plan”. To be more precise, the Commission, “shall, in cooperation with EASO (the European Asylum Support Office), make recommendations to that member state, inviting it to draw up a preventive action plan”.
Furthermore, according to article 13, paragraph 2, of the Dublin regulation, “where it is established […] that an applicant has irregularly crossed the border into a member state by land, sea or air having come from a third country, the member state thus entered shall be responsible for examining the application for international protection”.
It means that people coming from Africa by sea and disembarking on the Italian coasts and in Italian ports must be managed by Italian authorities. Meanwhile they cannot move, until all procedures have been completed.
No secondary movements are possible: Salvini’s own-goal
While the minister for Foreign Affairs, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, sent the letter to the European Commission instead of to the Council, the minister for Home Affairs, Matteo Salvini, stated that since 2015 around 478,000 migrants come to Italy, and around 268,000 of them are in other EU countries who now ask to return these people to Italy.
Salvini wanted to prove that member states don’t show solidarity, but he shot himself in the foot. The directive on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection clarifies that member states must act “in order to avoid secondary movements of applicants”.
According to the definition given by the EU legislation, secondary movement is “the phenomenon of migrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers, who for various reasons move from the country in which they first arrived, to seek protection or permanent resettlement elsewhere”. It is, essentially, a non-authorised crossing of the EU internal borders.
So, if Salvini admits that people are being returned to Italy it means that these people were not stopped by Italian authorities. “It is not up to us to comment on these figures, it is the Italian government who has to justify them”, was the answer provided by Natasha Bertaud, spokeswoman of the commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos. So, Italy breached the rules. And Salvini admitted it. Smart, ah?