EU approves contingency plan to avoid ‘Ocean Viking’ scenario

EU approves contingency plan to avoid 'Ocean Viking' scenario

Two weeks after the Franco-Italian crisis around the “Ocean Viking”, the European Ministers of the Interior meeting in Brussels approved an action plan on Friday in order not to “reproduce this kind of situation”.

The meeting had been convened at the request of Paris, which accepted on “exceptional basis” on November 11 the disembarkation of the 234 migrants from the “Ocean Viking”, after the refusal of the far-right Italian government of Giorgia Meloni to accommodate this humanitarian ship which has long been stranded off the Italian coast.

On his arrival, the French Minister Gérald Darmanin had repeated that France would not welcome asylum seekers arriving in Italy as long as Rome did not respect “the law of the sea”.

A plan of 20 measures

The emergency action plan, proposed Monday by the European Commission and endorsed by the ministers, proposes 20 measures, in particular to strengthen cooperation with countries such as Tunisia, Libya or Egypt in order to prevent departures and increase returns of irregular migrants.

It also provides for better coordination and exchange of information between States and NGOs rescuing migrants at sea, and intends to “promote discussions within the International Maritime Organization” (IMO) on “guidelines for vessels carrying out rescue operations at sea”.

The “southern Mediterranean countries must also open their ports” to migrant rescue ships “which cruise in their territorial waters”, underlined Gérald Darmanin.

“Not a definitive solution”

“The ‘Ocean Viking’ crisis was a bit of improvisation,” commented Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas. There, “we have twenty specific actions, an important political agreement, everyone is committed to working not to reproduce this kind of situation”, he commented at the end of the meeting, which he described as “positive”. But “this is not the final solution”, he acknowledged, calling on member states to advance negotiations on a reform of migration and asylum in the EU, which have stalled for more than two year.

The emergency plan also intends to relaunch a temporary European solidarity mechanism approved in June, at the initiative of France, which then held the presidency of the Council of the EU. A dozen countries then voluntarily undertook, to relieve the Mediterranean states, to welcome over a year some 8,000 asylum seekers arriving in these countries, France and Germany each taking 3,500.

But the “Ocean Viking” crisis led Paris to suspend its “relocations” from Italy. “We need to get out of a situation where the same states are called upon to receive ships and carry out relocations from other member states. France will resume its relocations when this is the case, ”tweeted Gérald Darmanin after the meeting.

Italian Minister Matteo Piantedosi for his part claimed to have noted a “convergence of positions” during the meeting, specifying that he had “welcomed cordially” to his French counterpart. The latter invited him to come to Paris before a next meeting of interior ministers scheduled for December 8 in Brussels.


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