Rome, Paris will run for new system of taking in migrants

EU countries refusing the automatic mechanism should be penalised

Meeting in Rome on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian PM Giuseppe Conte agreed that EU must introduce a new, automatic system of taking in migrants saved from the Mediterranean, news wires reported. The issue has caused particular tensions between Rome and Paris, with Italy complaining that French non-governmental organisations have been instrumental in rescuing migrants but that France has not done enough to help take them in.

“I am convinced that an automatic European mechanism is needed for the reception of immigrants,” Macron said. He added that EU countries that refused to take part in the scheme should be “seriously penalised”. The two leaders did not provide further details, saying only that the issue would soon be discussed by EU interior ministers.

“The issue of immigration must no longer fuel anti-European propaganda,” Italian premier said, referring to his previous coalition partner, the far-right League, which has seen its popularity surge thanks to its anti-migrant agenda. League leader Matteo Salvini, who quit the government last month, enabling the pro-European Democratic Party (PD) to take its place within the cabinet, has accused France of reneging on previous migrant deals and said Conte was being naive.

Macron was the first EU leader to visit Rome since the new government took office a week ago. Besides immigration, the two men also presented a united front on another issue that has long been a bone of contention - Libya.

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