France - Italy

Sarkozy, Berlusconi to meet Tuesday amid Tunisian migrants row

3 min

Italy is in favour of giving the European Union’s Schengen accord a “roadworthiness test”, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Sunday ahead of a crisis summit between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on Tuesday.


France has caused uproar by proposing to make it easier for countries to suspend the agreement’s guarantee of free movement within signatory countries’ borders.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

The suggestion followed Italy’s decision to grant permits to stay to more than 20,000 Tunisians, most of whom claim to have friends or relatives in France or other European countries.

The principle is not up for discussion but an analysis of how Schengen is suited to a “rapidly changing” world might be appropriate, Frattini told Il sole 24 Ore daily.

Sarkozy and Berlusconi will issue a joint declaration aimed at European institutions and revolt-hit Arab countries after their meeting, Frattini added.

An 8 April meeting of the two countries’ interior ministers which failed to resolve the migrants row.

The summit will also touch on other questions, including:

  • Libya – France and the UK led calls for air strikes - Italy, which has economic interests in its former colony, was less keen on confronting Moamer Kadhafi but has now recognised the rebel Transitional National Council;
  • Takeovers – Italy is unhappy about incursions by French companies and tried to help the Parmalat group fight off Lactalis’s bid to by a large stake

Former French Prime Minister and Sarkozy rival, Dominique de Villepin, called the French proposal a “mistake and a very bad signal”, speaking on Europe 1 radio Sunday.

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