EU has "window of opportunity" to change: Italy's PM

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-19 01:48:41|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

ROME, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The recent elections of pro-EU leaders in Austria, France and Germany mean the European Union (EU) has a "window of opportunity" to set a new course, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told Italian lawmakers on Wednesday.

"There is an awareness in several European countries including Italy that we are in a moment of transition with regards to the fate of the Union," Gentiloni told the Lower House in a televised speech.

The prime minister urged the EU to grasp the opportunity to avoid the risk of fueling another wave of anti-European sentiment such as the one that led to Brexit.

The window of opportunity won't last forever, 16 months at most before the next European Parliament elections to be held in 2019, said Gentiloni ahead of his trip to Brussels for a meeting of the European Council, also known as EU summit, on Oct. 19-20.

The agenda at that meeting will focus on migration, defense, digitalization, and external relations, including measures to stem illegal migration, the reform of the Common European Asylum System, and the planned permanent structured cooperation on defense (PESCO), according to a European Council statement.

Gentiloni said the situation right now is "contradictory": the Eurozone economy is growing, voters in Austria, France, and Germany have elected pro-EU leaders, and the Brexit is turning out to "not have those magnificent and spectacular consequences" that had been promised by pro-Brexit politicians.

But these signs of consensus must be turned into a stable public sentiment, Gentiloni said. "We are decidedly on the side of those who promote increasing levels of integration...for the benefit of our fellow citizens," Gentiloni told lawmakers.

"This has always been the position of Italy's governments and we confirm it today without hesitation."

The Italian prime minister said EU leaders must not resign themselves to "moving at the speed now being dictated by the last cars on the European train," hinting at Eastern European countries that gladly accept EU funding but "won't share in common commitments, values, and objectives."

Gentiloni went on to say that the EU must take steps to promote economic growth, create jobs, and promote the welfare of citizens, including, for example, a proposed EU unemployment insurance scheme.

On the migration front, Gentiloni said Italy is "proud" of its results, both because of its record in saving lives at sea and "a significant blow to the absolute domination of human traffickers on the central Mediterranean route."

As a result, Italy is now dealing with migration in a "civilized, organized, and manageable way," Gentiloni said.

These results "allow us to be very demanding within the EU context," he added.

Italy wants all EU members to share the job of taking in migrants and asylum seekers, as well as more European funding and humanitarian presence in Libya, which has agreed to stop migrant traffickers' boats from leaving.

"We need resources for local communities (as well as) Libyan authorities and UN organizations, so they can repatriate migrants from Libya to their African countries of origin," Gentiloni said.

"The idea of burdening just a few countries with the weight of migration from Africa and the Middle ethically wrong, and also a complete illusion on the political level," Gentiloni argued.

The Italian prime minister reiterated the same points in a speech to Senate lawmakers, emphasizing that the EU as a whole must invest in African countries of origin and in Libya to stem mass migration.

"No migration policy can be successful if it's carried out by just one country," Gentiloni told the senators.

The European Council is made up of member state leaders, and defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union.