The Spanish and Italian governments are at diplomatic war tonight over Rome’s tough policy on illegal immigrants.
It follows comments by Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, already stung by Silvio Berlusconi’s recent remark that Spain’s government had too many women in it: “The Spanish government rejects violence, racism, and xenophobia, and for these reasons we cannot condone what’s happening in Italy.”
The row has made the front pages in both countries, but in Rome the president and his ministers held a ceremonial review of the country’s security services. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni appeared to be setting the tone for the coming months, and it was an uncompromising one:
“The time has come to firmly crack down to avoid angry communities taking the law into their own hands, and avoid unjustified violence like we have seen in Naples after the attempted kidnapping of a new-born child.”
Naples residents were celebrating outside a deserted former makeshift camp for Roma people on Thursday. An arson attack the night before had forced them to flee. Earlier, police had swooped making a number of arrests following the alleged kidnap attempt.
Immigration is a relatively new phenomenon for Italy, which is struggling to cope. Foreign minister Franco Frattini’s recent proposal to restore border controls has been criticised in Brussels.
Today the European security organisation OSCE has expressed concern at the violent attacks on the Roma camps. It called on Rome to ensure their protection, and crack down on anti-Roma rhetoric in the media.