Salvini blocked the ship from Italian ports and said it should go to Malta instead. Malta refused, saying it had nothing to do with a rescue mission overseen by the Italian coastguard in waters off Libya.
“We have opened a front in Brussels,” said Salvini, who became interior minister last week. “We are contacting the European commission so that it can fulfil its duties towards Italy that have never been respected.”
With the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, urging the urgent disembarkation of all 629 people on board, including 100 children, as provisions ran out, Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s new prime minister, gave permission for the MS Aquarius to dock in Valencia. He said his country would welcome those on board.
Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, thanked Spain for its “gesture of solidarity”.
Immigration crisis 2.0 Underway
- French president Emmanuel Macron called Salvini irresponsible and cynical.
- In return, Salvini accused the French of hypocrisy given their own record of rejecting refugees.
- An emerging political alliance between Salvini and the German interior minister Horst Seehofer has the potential to blow up the grand coalition in Germany.
Salvini's Hypocrisy Tweet
"This is the last call to save a Europe that is dying of hypocrisy and silence. If our No and our voice will serve to play the alarm clock, ironically one day we may discover that to save Europe we would be just us."
The decision by Matteo Salvini to block the arrival of the Aquarius ship, with 629 refugees on board, pitches Italy against France and Spain. And, through a complicated political process, Germany may ironically end up on the side of Italy. Scholars of the First World War are in familiar territory
Salvini's decision triggered an angry reaction from France where Gabriel Attal, a spokesman for Emmanuel Macron's party LREM, is quoted in the Italian press as saying that it has made him vomit. Macron himself is quoted as saying that the decision was irresponsible and cynical. Corriere della Sera reports that a planned summit between Macron and Giuseppe Conte tomorrow was now at risk because of those comments.
In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Salvini called the French reaction hypocritical given France's own history of turning refugees away. He invoked the move by the previous French government to block the main Franco-Italian border crossing at Ventimiglia in 2015/2016, to prevent ten thousand refugees who had landed in Italy from passing through into France. That number included many woman and children. We recall that this act, plus the Austrian discussion of closing the Brenner pass, led to a massive political outcry in Italy which was largely ignored elsewhere in Europe. And for good measure, Salvini yesterday tweeted Trump-style that the principle by which he will conduct any international coordination is: #primagliitaliani.
In his interview, Salvini also pointed to a conversation he had with Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister and CSU chief. Seehofer and Salvini are allies on this issue. There is an eerily parallel discussion going on in Germany, with the potential to turn very serious. Seehofer has been a fierce critic of Merkel's immigration policy. As interior minister, he had planned to publish a white paper this week to do exactly the same as Salvini - to block all refugees at the border. Merkel stopped him for now, but she is now facing a big backlash among her own party members, many of whom support Seehofer on this. Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU chief in the Bundestag, made it clear that the CSU is not ready to compromise on this issue. Nor is the CSU ready to accept Merkel's proposal to wait until the June 28/29 EU summit, on the grounds that the summit is not going to solve the problem in any case.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports this morning that Merkel came under a lot of pressure from inside the CDU itself at a meeting of the joint CDU/CSU Bundestag group yesterday. The group leader Volker Kauder prevailed with a resolution to postpone any decisions until further talks, but of the 13 MPs who spoke at the meeting, 11 came out against Merkel with the other two sitting on the fence. Die Welt reports that Merkel was visibly shaken after the meeting. Merkel and Seehofer want to seek a compromise over the next few days - which seems at odds with the CSU's official position that it won't compromise. One of the reasons Merkel holds out is the potential this issue has for a stand-off in the EU as well as for the grand coalition itself.
Corriere: The Sunday initiative has been severely criticized. Are you convinced that blocking ports was the right move?
Salvini: "Look, I'm a minister for only eleven days, but I think an important result for all Italians has been brought home. Unlike the chatter we've heard over the past seven years, we have awakened Europe. Today I spoke with the German minister Horst Seehofer and I can say that I believe an Italian-German axis is emerging based on a fundamental slogan: to defend the external borders. What it means to defend the Mediterranean and therefore Italians too ".
Prelude to WWI
Once again I am in agreement with Eurointelligence's view of what it happening, even though I typically disagree with their solutions.
This time, Eurointelligence offered no solution to disagree with. Instead, their discussion concluded with this statement: "Don't underestimate the spillover of this crisis into the Italian debate on the future of the euro."
Mike "Mish" Shedlock