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Bossi backs boycott of French products after migrant row

'What goes around, comes around' says Italy's reform minister

13 April, 18:26
Bossi backs boycott of French products after migrant row (ANSA) - Rome, April 13 - Italian Reform Minister Umberto Bossi backed a boycott of French products following a big row over their Transalpine neighbours' refusal to share the burden of migrants from North Africa.

''It would be right,'' the outspoken Northern League leader told reporters when asked about the prospect of a boycott.

''What goes around, comes around,'' he said, adding that French consumers had boycotted Italian milk in the past.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, also a League member, called France ''hostile'' last week after it said it would continue to turn back North African migrants at the two nations' shared border even if they had temporary visas issued by the Italian authorities.

On Monday Maroni went on to question the value of European membership given the lack of help Italy has received from fellow member states in dealing with around 28,000 mostly Tunisian migrants to have arrived on its shores this year following unrest in North Africa.

''Bossi's comments on boycotting French products are not very appropriate for a minister,'' said Antonio Borghesi of the opposition Italy of Values party.

''Instead of boycotting French products, the League should boycott the choices of Premier (Silvio Berlusconi),'' he added in an apparent reference to a sex trial and three other judicial proceedings Berlusconi faces. On the hypothesis of quitting the EU, Bossi had lowered the tension, saying there was no chance of this happening and Maroni said he agreed with this ''200%'' Wednesday.

The Italian interior minister, however, continues to insist France and other signatories of the Schengen treaty that in theory abolished internal frontiers in much of the continent should accept the visas.

Maroni's European counterparts rejected this at a meeting on Monday, saying the migrants must also have a valid ID document and enough money to live on, among other things.

The row prompted Belgium to announce Wednesday that it will start 'strict'' checks on Italian tourists and will turn back Tunisians who do not satisfy their entry criteria, while Guenter Krings, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, accused Italy of using ''Mafia'' methods over the issue. Other Northern League members, meanwhile, stirred more controversy by mooting the possibility of shooting at migrant boats approaching Italy. Former Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, now junior transport and infrastructure minister, said violence by migrants might ''oblige the authorities to use arms''.

A League MEP, Francesco Speroni, went as far as to talk about using machine guns.

''Enough is enough. The escalation of the verbal violence some League members are using to address the migration issue is no longer tolerable,'' said Vannino Chiti, a Senator for the centre-left Democratic Party, the biggest opposition group.

''It damages Italy, it sows divisions and tensions, it doesn't help manage a serious, difficult, phenomenon. It just makes things worse with bad propaganda''. photo: Reform Minister Umberto Bossi and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni.