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Diplomatic visit Italian foreign minister supports Turkey-EU refugee deal

The Italian navy rescues a boat of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea on March 18. Italy and Greece are the main countries through which migrants enter Europe

(Keystone)

Italy’s foreign minister has backed the European Union’s agreement with Turkey over refugees but criticised Swiss implementation of the Dublin accord, as he prepares for a visit to Switzerland. 

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper, Paolo Gentiloni found flaws in the Dublin agreement that allows Switzerland to send migrants back to Italy. 

But he added that a recent deal to send refugees trying to cross the Aegean Sea back to Turkey is “a step forward” and “strengthens one principle: the asylum seekers who arrive in Greece are not just the Greeks’ problem, but the entire European Union’s”. 

“The phenomenon can be addressed by reducing the streams [of migrants] and not by leaving the situation entirely in the hands of the countries they arrive in first,” he added, saying the current Dublin accord that allows refugees to be sent back to their point of arrival in Europe is not a sufficient policy. 

Italy and Greece are the main European countries by which refugees enter the European Union. Although most migrants are currently travelling over the so-called Balkan Route via Greece, Switzerland has been preparing for the possibility of the Italian route over the central Mediterranean becoming more popular again. However, Gentiloni told the NZZ that he does not currently see any sign of the route shifting significantly.

The Italian foreign minister, who is meeting with his counterpart Didier Burkhalter on Monday, also told the NZZ that his country had negotiated that migrants travelling over the central Mediterranean would also be included in the EU-Turkey deal. 

Difficult negotiations

 Gentiloni also weighed in on Switzerland’s negotiations with the European Union over the implementation of a 2014 vote calling for quotas on EU immigrants.

“We must respect the Swiss people’s decision but make it compatible with EU’s pillar of the free movement of people,” he said. “I’m confident that Bern and Brussels will come to a good agreement following the Brexit vote in Britain. It’s very important to Italy.”

Gentiloni also pointed out that a deal between Switzerland and Italy over conditions for cross-border workers in canton Ticino are dependent on EU-Swiss negotiations and would have to wait for those to conclude.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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