Author: JOE GAMP
Italy have long been at loggerheads with the EU, feeling it is unfairly expected to take the weight of migrants flocking to Europe from Africa.
This week, 500 Libyan migrants arrived in Europe with an equal share of responsibility divided between EU member states to lighten the burden on Italy.
A deal was struck over the weekend, which saw Italy agreeing to take 50 of 450 migrants in to the country if other countries in the bloc followed suit.
France, Germany and Malta all agreed to take in 50 new migrants each to share responsibility throughout the EU accordingly.
Mr Conte, a relative political newcomer in Italian politics, thanked countries such as France and Germany for agreeing to share the responsibility on Sunday.
And on Tuesday, speaking on Italian TV, Mr Conte told how Italy was no longer expected to pick up the majority of immigrants heading to Europe and hailed the new plan as having major “historical significance”.
Speaking on TG1 News, Mr Conte said: “Italy is no longer alone on immigration. A new principle has been affirmed according to which migrants who have landed in Italy have landed in Europe”.
“The fact that 450 migrants were all rescued, disembarked and will be redistributed throughout Europe is a success.
“I would dare to say of historical significance and that comes from the efforts made in recent weeks and implemented in the European Council at the end of June.
He then concluded saying the Italian proposal “is based in the principle of protection of people’s dignity and rights.”
Interior Minister and head of anti-immigration party La Lega, Matteo Salvini, yesterday hailed the scheme as a success and said the burden on the country was being eased thanks to the new proposals.
He said: “Italy is no longer the refugee camp of the world. There is now a government that protects the interests of the citizens, and now everyone in the EU has realised that we cannot be the only ones to accept migrants.
“But the objective is to stop departures, not the division at European level.”
He said Rome would be steadfast in its refusal of migrants and the country would only stick to agreed quotas.
Mr Salvini said: “Firmness and coherence produce results, the time of fearful governments has ended. We have saved women and children.
“An excellent team work of the whole government, thanks to our premier Conte.”
The next goal, to stop once and for all the mafia of human trafficking, will be to bring back the immigrants to their places of origin.
“In Italy, and in Europe, only those who have permission are allowed.”
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Conte took aim at countries who had rejected the shared responsibility plan.
He condemned Austria for remaining silent on the issue, while Visegrad nations such as Hungary and Czech Republic refused to open their borders.
Czech Prime Minister and billionaire businessman Andrej Babis took issue with the plan and sternly refused to take part.
He wrote on Twitter: “I received the letter from the Italian PM Conte asking the EU to take care of part of the 450 people now at sea and such an approach is the road to hell”.