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Migrants: Caracciolo (CEI), EU's double face, amid crisis

'Do not touch Schengen, pillar of European integration'

26 January, 09:01
Refugees and migrants arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens Refugees and migrants arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens

Di Stefano Giantin


(ANSA) - TRIESTE - ''Noble oppennes'', such as the one that was shown by German chancellor, but also ''less edifying attitudes'', beginning with ''the closure of borders in other countries, raising grave concerns about the future of Europe''. The migrant crisis, still far from being resolved, continues to cause rifts in Europe and could put at risk the very idea of the EU. Anyway, some shared solutions can still be found, thanks to Italy's contribution and commitment and to the activity developed by the Central European Initiative (CEI). This is what Giovanni Caracciolo di Vietri, since 2013 Secretary General of the international organisation based in Trieste, and former Italian ambassador in Belgrade and Paris, thinks about the migrant issue.

The migrant crisis continues unabated. And many signs lead us to believe that the milestones of a united Europe, such as Schengen, could now be put at risk. What do you think about this issue?
''Schengen is a pillar of European integration and still we do not realise how important this agreeent is for the EU. However, I see with pleasure that in Italy, in a way which is somehow trasversal, even among those who call for stricter controls, the end of Schengen is not contemplated, since this occurrence would coincide with a true crisis of the European construction as we know it today.

How effective was the reaction to the migrant crisis in Europe? ''The reaction was very confused and gave rise to ambiguities.
There were interesting and certainly noble openness like the one shown by German chancellor, but also the less edifying aspects of closures and such violent reactions from other countries. All these aspects raise great concern about the future of Europe. Europe is not only a 'family' of values, but also of rules and mechanisms. Among these, the freedom of movement, which has always been one of the main interests for Italy''.

Not only border closures, during the migrant crisis...
''Recently, during the emergency, especially on the Balkan route, there were edifying examples that prove - perhaps the most interesting aspect - that the idea of integration in Europe is not yet so worn-out''.

Are you referring to Serbia? 
"'I mean it's worth taking into account what happened in Serbia, but also in Macedonia. Two countries that should be praised for their behaviour. They certainly had in mind, as Serbian Foreign Minister Dacic pointed out in Berlin, that their main goal is to enter the EU. It's perhaps cynical to say that the European ideal comes back through the 'back door', but this shows that according to public opinion this issue has not been seen as something that contradicts the integration process, I would say the opposite''.

Frost is currently slowing the migrant flows along the 'Balkan route', but spring could rekindle the refugee crisis. Do you think that threats to freedom of movement may become even more dangerous?
''I am deeply concerned about the future, but I see that there are also some concrete changes in governments' and national leaders' attitudes. Even the Commission has raised the possibility of scheduling an extraordinary summit. A debate is underway and I must say that the work that Italy has been doing for decades, actually with greater force and effectiveness, really makes sense. There are some emerging elements with regard to the revision of Dublin, the most correct approach to the distribution of refugee quotas''.

Merkel was 'immortalized' on the cover of Time magazine as 'Chancellor of the free world'. What do you think of Germany's decision to accept more than one million refugees? Was it wise?
"When we talk about the distribution of quotas, we often forget that Germany has accepted an impressive amount of refugees. Today the country says that it is still ready to accept, and it does accept, those fleeing the Middle East, particularly Syria, but yesterday the country used to accept all those who came from the East: numbers which were hyperbolically higher than those of the migrants Italy had to accommodate. However, it must be said, once again, that the absolute absence of France on this issue is proving to be dangerous for the future of EU integration''.

Brexit, Ukrainian crisis, crisis of migrants, Greece. Is the EU's unity at risk in 2016?
''You are talking to someone who considers the construction of Europe as an incontrovertible and unalterable fact. Therefore, I would say that this is a delicate phase. We must not forget the issue of Islamic radicalisation especially in those countries aiming to become members. But going back to the construction of Europe, it would be better and it would have been to accelerate the establishment of a European guarantee for those countries? I'm thinking about Serbia, in particular, but also Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, Kosovo: we cannot put them into a deep uncertainty, since this is reinforcing certain extremist ideologies''.

The CEI was founded in 1989. Twenty-six years after the fall of ''real socialism'', aren't you surprised by the attitude of certain Eastern European countries towards migrants and refugees fleeing wars and totalitarian regimes?
''I would say yes and no. In some countries, such as Hungary or Poland, compared with the initial openness 'after-Wall', the push to join the Western World and the Nato was even stronger that the willingness to access to the EU. Perhaps they have not been able to move painlessly from one dimension to another. On the other hand, we should not forget that the migrant crisis and the Middle East crisis have been accompanied by a big crisis in the relationships between East and West Europe. The relationship with Russia is just as controversial as it was with the USSR. And I invoke an enlightened vision, which is at the present time shared only among Italy and a few other European countries, because any progress and solution depends on diplomatic solutions that include Moscow. Regardless of whether we do like the current leadership or not.

Which role can the Cei play today?
''The CEI is a regional organisation and its 'core mission' is to enhance the process of European integration of the countries that do not yet belong to the Union and improve the relationship with the EU states that do not want to become members such as Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus. We are living a very promising phase, since everything that helps us support the idea of Europe is useful, today. This is widely recognized, even in Brussels. The idea of macro-regional cooperation is somehow confused, but that gives us a new intervention. Then in the future we can be a 'bridge' between macro-regional organisations. The third point, which is the most important for us, is the relationship we have with the EBRD. We have a fund at the EBRD, with which we can operate in terms of cooperation development, capacity building, training and investment in all member countries. The latest challenge is the migrant crisis. Using our own funds, we have set initiatives on immigration, health care, unaccompanied minors, safety. Not to mention that we are working with the EBRD, also on the SMEs, international investors and China. The 'Silk Road' between southeastern Europe and Asia, which was recently dusted off in Beijing, is a subject of great interest to us''. (ANSA).

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