Italy's migrant crisis is Europe's problem

July 11, 2017 - 8:15

-The refugee emergency calls for a common European fund.

Summer makes it easier for migrants to cross the Mediterranean, so Italy is struggling to cope with another influx of refugees. And like before, its European partners are doing too little to help. The Italian government is asking for a new approach, and its right: The EU should see this as a pan-European issue, requiring a pan-European response.
More than 84,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in the first six months of this year, nearly 20 percent more than in the first half of 2016. In future, the pressure on Italy's southern shores will only increase, as the demographic boom in Africa and Asia leads more young people to risk their lives for a brighter future in Europe.
The EU's Dublin Regulation says the country in which an asylum-seeker first enters the union must process his or her case. This shouldn't mean leaving that country to bear nearly all of the costs. In practice, it's meant something close to that.  

Granted, the EU has taken some steps to share the expense. Frontex, the agency patrolling the common border, has seen its budget increase from less than 20 million euros in 2006 to 300 million euros this year. Last week the European Commission approved a financial package with another 35 million euros for Italy to deal with the new surge of migrants, and 46 million euros to help the authorities in Libya, a main point of departure.
Still, this is only a fraction of what Italy is spending and will continue to spend each year. The Commission has graciously allowed Italy to cover this cost by borrowing more than the EU's deficit rules would otherwise permit -- adding more debt to a pile that's already one of Europe's biggest. Italy's taxpayers might reasonably see that as adding insult to injury.

The EU should set up a sizable common fund which member states can use to cover costs relating to the migrant crisis. Permitted spending could range from rescuing ships at sea to helping refugees into the labor market. The fund should be able to borrow, with a joint EU guarantee, and with the European Commission overseeing how the money is used.
Many of Italy's EU partners still see the migrant crisis as not their problem. That's grossly unfair -- and from Italy's point of view, unaffordable. If European solidarity means anything, the EU will finally, belatedly, put this right.
(Source: Bloomberg)

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