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Cameron can make common cause to solve Europe’s immigration concerns

14 April 2011

3:37 PM

14 April 2011

3:37 PM

Vince, it
seems
, is Vince. But Britain is not alone in struggling to arrest immigration. A mass of displaced North Africans is descending on Malta and Italy. The United Nations estimate that more than
20,000 people have already landed this year and many more expected.

Neither Malta nor Italy can cope alone. On Monday, Malta called for the EU to invoke a 2001 directive that grants migrants temporary protection in cases of ‘mass influx’. Italy also
petitioned Brussels to spread the physical burden. The EU did not acquiesce in either case, which especially outraged the Italian government: both Berlusconi and immigration minister Maroni said
that the European Union stands and falls together, and they threatened to withdraw.

Berlusconi’s government may be mired, but its response is striking nonetheless. In addition to the stern rhetoric, the Italians have issued arrivals with tourist visas in the hope that the
immigrants will travel north. The countries to the north of Italy are signatories to the Schengen Agreement, so holders of Italian visas can cross their borders without passports.


One almost has to admire Berlusconi’s audacity: give that man a bunga. But, as the Economist’s Charlemagne reports, countries to the north of Italy are openly aghast at the Italians’ brazen irresponsibility, which has
undermined the mutual trust needed for Schengen to operate. In response, France, Austria and various German states plan to introduce border checks, in direct contravention of the Schengen
agreement. Incredibly, the EU ratified the Italian visas yesterday,
which is certain to incense Paris, Vienna and Berlin still further.

First the sovereign debt crisis and now the Schengen fiasco: rarely can the European integration project have been more doubted by its chief proponents.

But Europe’s concerns over immigration do not end there. For example, the French press has been hounding interior minister Claude Guéant for weeks. The pressure forced Guéant to
concede last month that the immigration system is ‘out of
control
’. A contentious immigration bill, designed to substantially reduce legal migration, is currently before the French parliament. Guéant expanded on his policy in this interview with Le Figaro and called for a Europe-wide report
into immigration policy. Certainly, Sarkozy’s hand may have been forced by the resurgent Front National, but Marine Le Pen’s rampant success in some areas
(£)
is a symptom of sustained poor government rather than a cause.

The British government should be able to join with other European governments to force the EU to tackle immigration more effectively. For the EU’s part, Herman van Rompuy said yesterday that
Brussels ‘can and must do more’ to allay the
concerns of member states about immigration. Vince, it seems, is indeed just Vince.


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