Rome, Berlin, Vienna in migrant deal, Conte to pen EU letter containing migration 'principles'

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By Claire Heffron
Rome, Berlin, Vienna in migrant deal, Conte to pen EU letter containing migration 'principles'

 Interior ministers Matteo Salvini of Italy, Horst Seehofer of Germany and Herbert Kickl of Austria said after talks in Innsbruck Thursday that an "axis of the willing" led by Vienna, Berlin and Rome would curb migrant departures and landings in Europe, so that only those who are really fleeing was arrive in Europe.

Italian proposals on migrants should become EU ones, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said after three-way talks in Innsbruck Thursday with German and Austrian counterparts Horst Seehofer and Herbert Kickl. "It will bring satisfaction if Italian proposals become European ones with a reduction of migrant departures, landings and costs," he said.

"If the Italian model becomes European it will be cause for pride".

Premier Giuseppe Conte said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the second day of a NATO summit Thursday that "an excellent opening on migrants came as far as the enactment of the conclusions that we shared at the European Council goes". He said "now it's a question of implementing this plan".

Conte said "this should be done with those ideas and principles that were agreed.

"Therefore we must work on it in the coming days with her and with the European institutions".

Conte said that "I am drafting a letter to Juncker, Tusk and the European institutions to push Europe on the implementation of those innovative principles on immigration that emerged from the European Council". He said he had discussed migrants in a tete-a-tete with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Conte added that there was no "acrimony or conflict" with French President Emmanuel Macron and "we will defend our positions everywhere".

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said "Italy has a backlog of 500,000 illegal immigrants and if we don't manage to expel more than 10,000 a year we'll take 50 years to make up for the past".

He said there had been "no concrete results" from EU initiatives in Africa.

Salvini said at an informal meeting of EU interior ministers that "It's right to think of what will happen in a few months but another two migrant boats are arriving in Italy with hundreds of migrants. "My problem is today, not a few months' time".

There has still been no interior ministry indication on the Diciotti coast guard ship offloading its 67 migrants at Trapani.

Salvini said he wouldn't authorise any migrants to get off the Diciotti, which docked at Trapani, before establishing who allegedly "attacked" the crew of the ship that rescued them, the Vos Thalassa. Two alleged "troublemakers" among the 67 rescued migrants allegedly threatened the lives of the crew on board the oil-rig tug.

Prosecutors held a summit in Trapani to decide what measures to take on the Vos Thalassa, where the two rescued migrants, reportedly a Ghanian and a Sudenese, are accused of "taking over a vessel, threats and violence against the crew".

Meanwhile a sailboat with 60 migrants aboard is heading for the Siracusa area, while 23 Tunisians have landed at the stepping-stone island of Lampedusa.