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French-Italian border spat meeting

brussels bureau

French-Italian border spat meeting


The leaders of France and Italy will meet this Tuesday for what is being described as a calming of tempers — a summit over immigration across their shared border. Silvio Berlusconi will host Nicolas Sarkozy in Rome, to seek common solutions for managing the flow of migrants reaching Italian shores and pressing north.

France has said it wants to re-examine the safeguard clauses in the 25-country agreement on Europe’s Schengen internal borders free area, which permits people to travel without passport checks. Rome’s irritation was further aroused by its neighbour’s suspension last week of train service between the Cote d’Azur and the nearest town on the Italians’ side Ventimiglia.

Most of the would-be migrants are Tunisians fleeing their country’s economic and political instability, determined to reach family already residing in France. Documents given them by the Italian authorities aroused their hopes; then the French clamped down.

Human rights activists joined a group of migrants on the tracks in Ventimiglia after the French had cancelled trains. Paris said the decision lay with state rail operator SNCF, in consultation with regional administrators.

France has said it will honour Italian-issued permits only if immigrants have proper identification and can support themselves financially.

Italy has consistently complained of a lack of solidarity on the part of its EU partners, in handling migrants reaching the island of Lampedusa and seeking asylum status.

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