Italy FM talks shop at Munich Security Conference | News | DW | 12.02.2016
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Italy FM talks shop at Munich Security Conference

As mostly like-minded officials discussed the mass arrival of refugees in Europe, the only real disagreement between the German and Turkish ministers was about semantics. But the most interesting input came from Italy.

Just as the debate over refugees in Europe's was in danger of becoming monotonous for the gathered dignitaries, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni spoke up. "Sorry to say," he said, "but I think we are dealing with something permanent."

For years, large numbers of refugees crossing from North Africa have landed on Italy's Mediterranean coast. Gentiloni said all Europe could, and should, do was to try to better manage and reduce the number of people making their way to Europe.

Before Gentiloni injected his dose of Italian realism, his Turkish colleague and Germany's head of the federal chancellery had traded words of praise and shared positions.

Chancellery chief Peter Altmaier lauded Ankara's acceptance of large numbers of refugees, to which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu replied that Turkey agreed with Germany that illegal migration needed to be stopped.

The only disagreement, Cavusoglu posited, was that Ankara preferred the term irregular instead of illegal to describe the status of the people concerned.

Burden sharing

In unison again, both ministers called for "burden-sharing" - a demand that still takes some time to get used to coming from German officials. The sentiment of "burden-sharing" was also echoed by Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who argued that Europe's problem was not that it didn't have a strategy, but that it didn't carry it out properly.

While all participants again agreed that trying to close Europe's borders was not only wrong from a humanitarian perspective, but also practically impossible, it was once again the Italian foreign minister who did not mince words.

Not content to simply speak about "burden-sharing," Gentiloni made one thing clear: "We need to change the Dublin rules," referring to the current European system that stipulates that refugees must seek asylum in the first EU country that they enter. Gentiloni said such a system clearly put the onus on coastal countries such as Italy or Greece, was unsustainable and did not work.

No one disagreed with him.

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