Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that for much of this year the European Union mishandled the biggest influx of refugees since World War II, changing tack in reaction to events rather than adopting a long-term strategy.
Addressing the parliament in Rome before Thursday’s EU summit, the premier referred to the loss of some 700 lives when a rickety boat carrying refugees sank off the Libyan coast in April.
“Six months on from the extraordinary EU summit of April after the terrible tragedy involving 700 of our brothers and sisters, we can say with much clarity that on the issue of migration Italy was right, and the rest of Europe was not,” Renzi said.
Europe has been dealing with a surge in the number of migrants and refugees this year, with many of them fleeing Africa and the fighting in Syria. At least 800,000 are expected in Germany alone in 2015, according to the government.
“From the first day, we have said it was time to change EU policy on these issues,” Renzi said, while many friends and allies “changed position on the basis of individual events, moments which were also very moving” instead of adopting a long-term strategy.
For six months, Italy’s EU partners denied that the Dublin accord, which stipulates that asylum-seekers must seek refuge in the country of arrival, must be overhauled, he said.
“Today we see after six months that a simple principle which was always denied is now authoritatively supported by Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel at the European Parliament: the Dublin agreement is dead,” Renzi said, referring to the French president and German chancellor. “It isn’t technically, but it is politically.”
The EU’s border-management agency Frontex said on Tuesday that the number of migrants who arrived in the bloc in the first nine months of 2015 reached more than 710,000, compared with 282,000 during the whole of last year.
For more, read this QuickTake: Europe’s Refugee Crisis