France and Italy in call to close EU borders in wake of Arab protests
Ian Traynor in Brussels and John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian, Wednesday 27 April 2011
Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi
Sarkozy and Berlusconi are demanding European deportation pacts with the countries of revolutionary north Africa to send migrants home. Photograph: Alessandro Di Meo/EPA
France and Italy have thrown down the gauntlet over Europe's system of passport-free travel, saying a crisis of immigration sparked by the Arab spring was calling into question the borderless regime enjoyed by more than 400 million people in 25 countries.
Challenging one of the biggest achievements of European integration of recent decades, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi also launched a joint effort to stem immigration and demanded European deportation pacts with the countries of revolutionary north Africa to send new arrivals packing.
The French president and the Italian prime minister, at a summit in Rome, opted to pile the pressure on Brussels and the governments of the other 25 EU states, demanding an "in-depth revision" of European law regulating the passport-free travel that takes in almost all of the EU with the exception of Britain and Ireland.
Prompted by the influx to Italy of almost 30,000 immigrants, mainly from Tunisia, in recent months, the two leaders warned that the upheavals in north Africa "could swiftly become an out-and-out crisis capable of undermining the trust our fellow citizens place in the free circulation within the Schengen area".