EUobserver Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has said the EU will in November discuss a proposal by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that the 27-nation bloc pay the north African country €5 billion a year to stop immigration.
“The issue of the 5 billion has never been examined or discussed. We will tackle it at the European level and I imagine it will be dealt with at the November Euro-African summit in Libya,” Italian foreign minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday (31 August) by AFP.
Mr Gaddafi suggested Monday during his speech to business representatives in Italy the EU should pay his country “at least €5 billion a year” to stop African migrants crossing the Mediterranean and avoid Europe becoming “black.”
“Gaddafi is thinking what all north African leaders are thinking: they can’t and don’t want to be the keepers of Europe,” Mr Frattini said, adding that: “Europe needs to finally get a migration policy, giving plenty of funds to the migrants’ countries of origin and helping transitory countries face a huge burden.”
While a European Commission spokesman declined on Tuesday to react to the Libyan leader’s comments, France said the immigration issue would be included in a broader accord with Libya, on the negotiating table since November 2008.
According to French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, France wants to close the deal, which also addresses questions of trade and investment, “swiftly.”
Mr Gaddafi’s visit to Italy has caused outrage by left-leaning opposition and pro-Vatican groups after he was quoted as saying that “Islam should become the religion of Europe.”
Mr Frattini dismissed the critics as “people who know nothing at all, either about foreign policy or Italy’s interests,” the Italian news agency ANSA reported from an evening ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of a friendship treaty between Libya and Italy.
Under the treaty, Italy agreed to pay Libya $5 billion over 25 years, mainly in the form of infrastructure investments, in compensation for the colonial period. In return, Tripoli allows Italy to take part in sea patrols of the country’s coast with scores of Africans attempting to get to Europe from Libya.
Human rights groups have frequently criticised the pact. Human Rights Watch’s Bill Frelick calls it “a dirty deal to enable Italy to dump migrants and asylum seekers on Libya and evade its obligations.”
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