Photo courtesy of Sea Watch showing the private rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 off the Libyan Coast, December 19, 2018 | Photo: EPA/CHRIS GRODOTZKI/SEA-WATCH.ORG
Photo courtesy of Sea Watch showing the private rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 off the Libyan Coast, December 19, 2018 | Photo: EPA/CHRIS GRODOTZKI/SEA-WATCH.ORG

The mayors of some Italian and Spanish cities are challenging the politics of national sovereignty and blocked ports, by signing an alliance in support of NGOs working in migrant rescue in the Mediterranean. Just three months ahead of European elections, the signatories said the pact aims to "save Europe from itself.”

The mayors of some Spanish and Italian cities gathered in a hotel in Rome to sign a pact to "save Europe from itself," three months ahead of European elections. The mayors of Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, Valencia, Naples, Palermo, Syracuse, Milan, Bologna and Latina signed the pact in support of NGOs working in migrant rescue in the Mediterranean. They said the pact aims at stopping "the decline in the founding principles" of Europe and to "refloat the European project." 


Representatives from the NGOs Sea Watch, Proactiva Open Arms, and Mediterranea also participated, creating a project called 'United4Med.' 

The mayors' appeal 

The mayors, issued a call to mayors of other cities too, emphasizing that the Mediterranean is the cradle of thousands of years of civilization but is becoming a "common grave" for thousands of young people. It said the port closures by Italy and Malta, and the block against NGO ships, are practical examples of how Europe itself is headed for shipwreck.

The mayors said "in the face of this horror" the answer cannot be a "denial of human rights." They said saving lives is "not negotiable" and said it is a crime to deny the NGO ships' departure or deny them entrance into a port. Barcelona's Mayor Ada Colau said migration is not a question that regards just one city. "We aren't alone, we are millions of people and we are ready to do everything possible, through institutional and judicial actions, to denounce a block that is violating human rights," she said. She added, that speech based on hate and fear creates and has created the biggest problems, "as European history teaches us." She said those who speak of security with fear "do nothing but create chaos. Now is the time to make the effort and defend life, and I am sure that we are the majority in Europe," Colau said. 

Supportive voices in Italy

The Italian mayors who signed the pact were in support of Colau's speech and were all in agreement that the Salvini security decree "generates insecurity." Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando who founded the left-leaning 139 Movement, in 2013, weighed in labeling anyone who violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "subversive." Bologna's Mayor Virginio Merola, who is a member of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) called for the creation of a "parallel and integrated network of solidarity." He continued, attacking the government by blaming them for fanning the flames of fear in the country:  "The security alarm is unfounded. They are the ones who feed fear, and therefore we have to undertake acts of 'constitutional disobedience' against a decree that is unconstitutional." 

The magistrate and politician Luigi de Magistris who has been mayor of Naples since 2011 and is now part of the Autonomy and Democracy party said "saving human lives is a duty and leaving people at sea is a crime. They want to destroy models of integration, and we are working to integrate," he said. 

Agreeing with Bologna's mayor, he too underlined the fact that "the security decree increases insecurity." Italian politician Luigi Manconi, a senator in the Democratic Party, said the alliance is the "first step on a path that hasn't come from nowhere," but rather is the fruit of a pact between "NGOs and cities that have taken an active role in reception networks." The group hopes that more mayors and more cities will join them soon in a challenge to what they see as the problem of a nationalist focus which is not helpful in trying to solve an international problem. 
 

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