Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte | Credit: ANSA
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte | Credit: ANSA

The Italian government has chosen to take a very hard line on migration and, as shown by the case concerning the migrant rescue ship 'Aquarius,' it intends to put up a fight in Europe over reception.

The new Italian government led by Giuseppe Conte shares the hard line on migration taken by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. After announcing its intention to put up a fight in Brussels over reception of first arrivals, it has enacted a new strategy concerning the case of the rescue ship Aquarius.

This is set to become the symbol of a new policy involving an arm wrestling match with the EU and its member states even to the point of leaving a ship full of migrants in the middle of the Mediterranean. 

Italy unavailable for Aquarius 

The prime minister and his deputies, League leader Salvini and Labour Minister and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio, met at Palazzo Chigi for a three-hour meeting on Sunday and then issued a strongly worded statement against the "umpteenth unavailability of Malta, and therefore of Europe, to intervene and take responsibility for the emergency." 

"Italy finds itself alone in responding to the migrant emergency," said Conte, reiterating a position stated at the recent G7 summit in Canada. 

The battle in Europe 

Conte launched what is likely to be his government's first battle: The Dublin Regulation governing first instance asylum applications needs to be "radically changed," migrant flow management needs to be "shared at EU level, including of initiatives to prevent departures," said the head of government in view of the European Council summit at the end of June.

Meanwhile, government coalition partner M5S is increasingly aligning itself with right-wing Salvini despite past dissent from the party's orthodox wing. That the new Italian government is prepared to force Europe's hand on international affairs is no mystery after Conte took the same line as Trump over readmitting Russia to the G7. "It would have been better to discuss it beforehand," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. 

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