Italy's Conte Seeks EU Commission Involvement in Migrants Crisis

(Bloomberg) -- Italy is asking the European Union to create a permanent role of mediator to ease tensions on migrants.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote Tuesday to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and to EU President Donald Tusk asking the Commission to mediate with other EU countries to have them accept migrants, according to an interview with the Italian leader published by newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

“What happened last Sunday should become the norm," Conte said, referring to the decision by Germany, Spain and Portugal to accept some of the migrants aboard ships off Italy’s shores.

Italy’s coalition government led by Conte has been clashing with partner EU countries in recent weeks, after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini prevented ships from entering the country’s ports.

While countries including France and Malta agreed to share the burden of arrivals in Italy, others including Hungary have not. Italy has been asking the EU to change the Dublin accord, which assigns responsibility for processing asylum claims -- a lengthy and costly process -- to the first nation a migrant enters.

Italy estimates that it spent 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) on migrants in 2017, while receiving only 77 million euros in EU aid.

“I am trying to convince Hungary and Czech Republic,” Conte said in the interview. “We should control the influx and first arrivals at the European level."

Anti-immigration political parties across the bloc have surged in popularity, emboldening the push for change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been facing a rebellion in her ruling coalition from Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who leads the Bavarian sister party of her Christian Democratic Union.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.