Berlusconi, Sarkozy meet on Libyan crisis, immigration
Updated: 2011-04-27 07:14
ROME - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met here on Tuesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss military cooperation in the Libyan crisis and to launch a joint handling of the immigration emergency that lately triggered a diplomatic row between the two countries.
"It was a very positive summit, showing a wide convergence on all issues," Berlusconi told a press conference following the meeting.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy shake hands during a news conference at Villa Madama in Rome April 26, 2011. Sarkozy arrives in Rome on Tuesday looking to end a row over North African immigration and ease tensions over a bid by France's Lactalis to acquire Italy's largest listed food group Parmalat. [Photo/Agencies]
In a joint declaration the two leaders outlined their cooperation in the Libyan crisis and called for a European Union ( EU) defense policy and a greater EU role in the economic development of the Mediterranean.
"It was a hard decision considering our colonial ties and the bilateral Friendship Treaty signed with Libya, but we felt the urgency to boost our active role of participantion," said Berlusconi.
Sarkozy said France "needs Italy's increased participation in Libya" and that their shared goal is to "support the desire of democracy and freedom of the Libyan population." But he ruled out the possibility of deploying ground troops considering it was not envisaged by the UN 1973 resolution.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy shake hands as they arrive for a meeting at Villa Madama in Rome April 26, 2011. Sarkozy arrives in Rome on Tuesday looking to end a row over North African immigration and ease tensions over a bid by France's Lactalis to acquire Italy's largest listed food group Parmalat. [Photo/Agencies]
The two leaders also discussed the immigration emergency, overcoming recent tensions by launching a bilateral crisis unit to monitor the incoming immigrant flows. In a joint letter to the European President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission (EC) chief Jose Manuel Barroso, Berlusconi and Sarkozy called for a revision of the Schengen treaty, a greater financial burden- sharing approach by the EU member states in handling the immigrant arrivals, more funds for the Mediterranean development and a reinforcement of the EU border agency Frontex.
"We are aware that on a yearly base France takes in some 50, 000 refugees while Italy just 10,000. The French burden is five times ours. Neither of us want to change the Schengen treaty but we believe that in extraordinary circumstances such as these there should be some variations," said Berlusconi.
Recalling that France was the European country facing the greatest immigrant burden, Sarkozy said "the only way to save the Schengen treaty was to reform it" through the introduction of a special "sovereignty clause" that guaranteed the member states most affected by the immigration waves.
The bilateral summit also focused on economic ties and on the need to create major Italian-French industrial giants able to lead the global markets. The interior, foreign and economy ministers of both countries attended the meeting.
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