The Memorandum with Tunisia is working, without it there would be more illegal immigrants landing, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi told Italian newspaper La Stampa.
However, the commissioner said that it was not possible to expect the network of human traffickers to be dismantled in two months. The real problem is that there is an increase in the number of departures. The EU is working very closely with Tunisia to help it regain control of its borders, Olivér Várhelyi stressed. He said that it will take time and a lot of effort, but he hopes that they can build up the necessary skills in a few weeks. In 2022, the Tunisian coastguard stopped 9,376 people; this year it has stopped 24,000. Last year 32,459 lives were saved, while this year 50,000. Unfortunately, human traffickers have quadrupled their efforts to smuggle migrants into Italy,” he said.
According to the Italian newspaper,
the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell had criticized Várhelyi in a letter for not consulting Member States and him on the agreement with Tunisia, but the Hungarian Commissioner denied it, saying that Borrell was aware of it.
Olivér Várhelyi praised the Memorandum, noting that without it, many more migrants would have set off this summer. According to him, Ursula Von der Leyen was right to sign it as soon as possible. He said that the European Council had criticized the excessive speed of signing the memorandum, but that the EC was aware of everything, and had promised not to rush the signing next time. The next country to sign a similar agreement with the EU is likely to be Egypt, and negotiations are ongoing. At the same time, the EU also has good relations with Morocco.
He said that one EU Member State had expressed doubts about the memorandum because of concerns about respect for human rights. Várhelyi clarified the issue with the Member State in question, but he did not name the state.
Photo: Facebook/Migrants Situation
The commissioner explained that the money would soon be paid to Tunis in order to stop the migrants. He added that
an EU naval mission could help to stop them, for instance with search operations, but the people would have to be rescued from the sea by the North African countries alone.
He agrees with the idea that asylum applications should be made in embassies outside the EU, so that the EU decides who can enter its territory, not the smugglers. However, he noted that this would require an agreement with those countries.
Asked what he thought about Giorgia Meloni’s accusation that EU Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni was not looking after Italian interests, Várhelyi said that every commissioner has a duty to respect the way his country thinks, and that each commissioner must bring his sensibility and his culture.
Via MTI, La Stampa, Featured image: Pixabay