Italy gives travel papers to thousands of migrants
The European Union’s scheme to abolish national borders - allowing free movement between member countries - is under major threat.
Five major countries are bringing back border checks on travellers to try to deter the arrival of thousands of migrants fleeing political upheavals in North Africa.
A major row was under way between France and Italy after the French abandoned their agreement to allow free travel and stopped trains carrying Tunisian migrants on the Italian border.
Refugees: Italian policemen stand guard over migrants on Lampedusa. Many have been given travel documents and are now trying to reach France
Journey of their lives: North African children inside a detention centre on Lampedusa. The French government has locked down borders to keep them out
The return of inspections of travel documents is a major blow to the Schengen agreement, the deal that allows people to move between 25 EU countries without passports or visas and without being held up by customs or immigration checks at borders.
The development of Schengen has run alongside the construction of the euro as the foundation stones of a united Europe since core EU countries first signed a no-borders deal at the Luxembourg town after which the treaty is named in 1985.
The cracks in the agreement follow the troubles of the euro, which has been undermined by the debt crises in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and which now faces further trouble from political resistance in the euro member countries expected to finance bailouts for the debtor countries.
Difficulties with the Schengen agreement multiplied after 26,000 Tunisian migrants arrived in Italy in the wake of the country’s revolution earlier this year. Most reached the EU through the Italian island of Lampedusa off the Tunisian coast.
However many do not want to remain in Italy but aim to travel to France. French authorities were displeased when the Italian government issued the migrants with temporary residence permits that allow them to travel freely through the Schengen countries.
Ethnic tension: Tunisian would-be immigrants scuffle with police in their temporary accomodation, a tent camp in Manduria, near Taranto
France acted on Sunday, halting trains at the northern Italian border tow of Ventimiglia to prevent groups of Tunisians from entering France.
Italian politicians reacted with fury. Foreign Minister Franco Fattini said France had broken Schengen rules and added: ‘If the situation persists, we would save time by just saying that we are changing our minds about free circulation, which is one of the fundamental principles of the union.’
Rome’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said the Tunisians must be allowed to move freely through the Schengen countries. ‘We have given the migrants travel documents, and we gave everything that is needed,’ he said.
Travel documents: Roberto Maroni, Rome's Interior Minister, said the Tunisians must be allowed to move freely
However the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, a prominent supporter of French President Sarkozy, responded: ‘It’s a bit easy for Italy to be generous with other people’s territory. What are the consequences of this? Italy, in the name of the EU, has made an incredible offer of hope to North African immigrants. This is not acceptable.’
Checks on documents at borders are now being reintroduced by France, the Netherlands and Belgium, which is demanding that Tunisians arriving on Italian temporary permits can show they have at least 10,000 euros.
Austria has indicated that it is looking for ways to curb the movement of migrants, and German Interior Minister Jens Teschke said there would be ‘more intensive observation’ of people arriving at road and rail borders and airports.
French ministers have said their introduction of checks on trains complies with the Schengen rules, which allow occasional police inspections on borders as long as there are no regular and routine controls.
N. African refugees
They also said they had security concerns because political activists were on the trains, and that people travelling on Italian permits would have to show they had enough money to support themselves.
The 25 Schengen countries include most EU members together with Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. Britain and Ireland have never taken part in the free movement zone, and keep their own border controls - although Britain is not allowed to turn away citizens of EU countries who want to enter.
African Union leaders are gearing up for the forth coming summit with their European counterparts (European Union) in Lisbon Portugal on 8-9 Dec.2007. This is not the first time summit has been held between Europeans and Africans. Now and then summits were held for Africa even in their absence. Berlin conference of 1884 was a prime example of a summit on Africa in which Africans were not invited, its ramification has not been totally addressed. This December summit is billed as a mutual advantage conference, where leaders with mutual interests will sit down and exchange ideas and views on advancing the interests of both parties. Well, this is good thing for all the parties involved.
Africa EU Summit
Cost of time and money What is the significant of this summit? How will it make Africa better? What does it mean to an average African? These are important questions that African leaders must ask, before the commencement of this meeting. When answers are affirmative, they can strategies and formulate the requisite methodology to accomplish their targeted goals. Scare resources and time must expended for this summit, African leaders have to pay their ways to Lisbon for the meeting. European Unions are calling the meeting, they should underwrite the travel expenses of the African leaders because they have more resources and the meeting is more important to them. After all, the African soil contain all the resources including oil, forestry, precious metals and minerals they are scrambling for their industries. EU must remember that America, China, India and many others are jockeying for a piece of action in Africa - to power their burgeoning cities and manufacturing sectors.
African leaders could utilize this summit to convey to an average African, they are serious about Africa. Yes, the average African, is one person everybody talks about but nobody really wants to help. The average African lives in the remote part of the continent, surviving with less than $2 a day. He and his family are without social amenities - no good drinking water, poor health facilities and without electric power supply. Most of all, no jobs and no opportunities to improve his livelihood.
Beyond diplomatic niceties
Arican leaders have to be straight forward with their European counterparts, if possible shun the diplomatic shenanigans and tell them precisely what they want without beating around the bush. Being undiplomatic might be what can help the average African when their leaders speak up boldly on their behalf.
More broken promisesThis summit cannot offer basket of pledges to Africans in the pretense that they are aiding them.
Agenda for the meetingThe summit must tackle problems that are pressing to Africans including: African Migrants in Europe. The migrant labor must be treated in decent and respectful manner. African Union leaders and their European Union counterparts must come together and strongly dialogue on this perilous issue. The brain drain in Africa due to exodus of the educated class and the immigration issues must be broaden to connote the Human Rights and Economic Rights of the illegal and the undocumented migrants in Europe. Spain and Europe are right to protect their borders, but at same token, the illegal migrants have rights too and must be treated in a civilized manner with decency and decorum. There must be a balance and respect on both sides.
Removing agricultural subsidiesFor African farmers to have fair chance of competing in the global market, EU must remove the subsidies given to their farmers. If not, they should devise the means to compensate African farmers directly. The short term trade deals must be out rightly rejected and shunned by African leaders. The so-called ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS (EPAs) must be replaced with long term and comprehensive trade negotiations. A negotiation devoid of coercion and intimidation must be the bedrock of the summit.
Total cancellation of African debtsAfrican governments have to be relieve of all the foreign debts. The endless payments have to cease, so is to the perpetual bondage associated with the debts. The borrowed principal of the loans have already been paid by African states, yet the interest continues to accrue at a whopping rate. The repatriation of ill-gotten wealth and the corrupt-tainted funds in European banks and the stolen artifacts that belong to Africa must be returned.In practical terms, African leaders have to negotiate from strength. Their strengths will emanate from good governance, respect for human rights, transparency and probity in their financial dealings and undertakings. These leaders must demonstrate to their fellow Africans and EU counterparts that they are ready to stand up for Africa in Lisbon or anywhere for that matter.