Italy has called for immediate changes to the European Union’s Operation Sophia – an anti-trafficking mission in the Mediterranean – during the EU-wide summit of defence and foreign ministers in Vienna on August 30.
Rome, which currently commands the naval effort, wants other EU states to open their ports and allow migrants to disembark on their territories. Rome is threatening to close its ports to the Sophia mission if its demands are not met by next week.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the EU defence ministers pledged their support to the mission, but no one offered their ports as disembarkation sites.
With little immediate sign of a compromise in sight, the row could jeopardise the EU’s anti-trafficking mission in the Mediterranean.
According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Rome’s new right-wing, nationalist government says it should not have to carry the burden on its own and it is time other EU states do their fair share by taking in more of the migrants.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country was ready to take on a share of responsibility together with other willing partners. “We need Sophia, now and in the future,” he said in Vienna before attending the foreign ministers meeting.
Before the defence ministers meeting, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters she expected EU leaders to solve the question of how refugees should be distributed among member states and how those whose asylum claims are rejected should be returned home.
“That is the question that is anyhow right on top of the agenda of EU leaders… and so I expect this question to be solved in the autumn,” she said.