Federal Interior Minister Seehofer has reached an agreement with his Italian counterpart Salvini to repatriate refugees. But the agreement is not yet signed.
While Seehofer celebrates his success, Salvini presents a number of conditions.
Particularly important is Rome "saldo zero": For each migrants, which takes back Italy, because he was registered and migrated there, Germany should receive a Mediterranean refugee.
By Constanze von Bullion, Berlin, and Oliver Meiler, Rome
The Federal Minister of the Interior sounded confident and also a little proud. The agreement between Germany and Italy, which is to regulate the refusal of refugees at the German-Austrian border and the takeover of boat refugees from Italy, was "completed", said Horst Seehofer (CSU) on Thursday in the Bundestag. All that was missing was "the two signatures from the Italian colleague and from me", in a few days everything was sealed. Only one day later, on Friday afternoon, Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (Lega) Seehofer thwarted the bill: Italy put some conditions for the signing of the agreement, it was also about the reform of the Dublin system, with the distribution of refugees be reorganized in Europe.
For Seehofer, Salvini's appearance in Vienna is a setback. Since July, he has tried to negotiate an agreement with his colleague in Rome, which provides for the exchange of asylum seekers.
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It is planned that Italy will take back refugees who want to enter Germany via Austria, but have already been registered in Italy by fingerprint and have applied for asylum there. In return, Germany wants to undertake to take over from Italy as many asylum seekers who have come on rescue ships to Italy, but are not allowed to enter. The framework agreement, which Seehofer described in the Bundestag as "concluded," is "zero-balanced numerical data," ie a regulation in which neither country should take more refugees than the other.
But that does not seem to be enough for Italy. The agreement was on his desk, Interior Minister Salvini said on Friday after an informal ministerial meeting on security and migration in Vienna. But before he signs it, he must be sure that it will benefit Italy too. That is only the case, if it comes out "balance zero". For every migrants whom Italy takes back because he has migrated to Germany after his identification, Germany must accept a migrants from Italy. That such a zero solution is already outlined in the framework agreement, which is yet to follow a "technical agreement" with details, let Salvini fall under the table.
And the list of conditions became even longer on Friday. Rome expects "that Germany will support us in changing the rules for the EU mission Sophia," Salvini said. The EU intervention Sophia, which began in the refugee crisis, is currently facing an uncertain future. In the event that Sophia ships continue to bring migrants to Italy, who were rescued from distress, Rome has threatened with the closure of the Italian ports. It will probably be months before the conflict is resolved. The same applies to the Dublin rules, which are to be replaced by a fairer distribution system of refugees in Europe. Again, there is no quick fix in sight.
Obviously, the head of the xenophobic Lega once again wanted to show the Italians at home that he was engaging with everyone so as not to let new migrants into the country. Before Salvini's trip to Vienna, his rejection sounded even more decided. "I am not prepared to accept an agreement that would result in even one additional immigrant coming to Italy," he told Italian media. He therefore has no hurry to sign the agreement. His German colleague Horst Seehofer already, that was indeed in the election campaign. "And I do not see why I should help him – the CSU and the CDU allied in Europe with my political opponents, so why should I do them a favor?"
The spokeswoman for the Federal Minister of the Interior said on Friday that her house was still "about to sign soon".
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