Italy says without France apology Conte-Macron meet should be cancelled

Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban

Spain allowed the ship to dock in Valencia after Italy's and Malta's refusals.

On Tuesday, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux quoted President Emmanuel Macron as accusing Italy of acting with "a form of cynicism and a measure of irresponsibility".

"France says that we are cynical but between January 1 and May 31 it turned back 10,249 people at the border, including women and disabled children", Salvini said.

France claims it has received no formal request from Italy for an apology, believing the planned meeting between Macron and Conte would go ahead. Spain then stepped in and offered the port of Valencia, where the Aquarius is heading.

This June 12, 2018 photo released Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" shows migrants on the Aquarius ship after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

France was not alone in its criticism.

"It is shameful. As a European I felt shame - shame - that there was a boat - there is a boat - in the Mediterranean and for several days nobody wanted to take these people", he said.

How Europe should share the responsibility of handling migrants trying to get into the bloc from war zones and poor countries, largely across Africa and the Middle East, remains a vexed question.

Salvini insisted Tuesday that the country's ports would no longer be open to foreign boats carrying migrants.


Salvini's League scored its best-ever result in March national elections, partly on pledges to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants and halt the flow of newcomers, and has formed a coalition with the anti-system 5-Star Movement.

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe irregularly since 2014 and Italy is now sheltering some 170,000 asylum seekers.

"Similar statements are compromising relations between Italy and France", he said, adding that Paris should take action to "rectify the situation".

The countries' two economy ministers also spoke by telephone, French finance ministry official said, and agreed to reschedule their cancelled meeting.

Mr Macron had suggested Italy's new leadership was attempting to make a high-profile break with previous governments in refusing to take in the ship, instead of dealing with underlying issues such as development and security in the migrants' home countries.

Macron called Conte on Thursday, a source in the prime minister's office said, without elaborating.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European nation where they first arrive.

After meeting in Berlin, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer echoed Salvini. She also describes the fear that the migrants were experiencing as "so present, so palpable".

Refugees have continued to arrive as politicians trade blame. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard.

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