German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Saturday he is “optimistic” the country will get a deal with Italy on migration, despite push back from his hard-line Italian counterpart, Matteo Salvini, Reuters reported.
In a stump speech to the Christian Social Union party conference in Munich to rally party activists ahead of the Bavarian election in October, Seehofer said: “We will get it done.”
Back in June Seehofer, who also leads the CSU (the sister party to Angela Merkel’s CDU) had threatened to turn back asylum seekers already registered in other EU countries — a move that threatened the stability of Merkel’s fragile coalition government.
In recent weeks, Seehofer has been negotiating the return of migrants to first-arrival countries like Greece, Spain and Italy — and on Thursday proclaimed an agreement with Rome, whereby for every migrant returned from Germany to Italy, Berlin would accept one asylum seeker.
But the following day, Salvini said he would only sign the agreement pending “Germany’s availability” to back Italy’s push to review EU-wide resettlement rules and the bloc’s operation Sophia tasked with patrolling the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Tunisia refused to repatriate 184 migrants that arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa. There will be “no speedy procedure or repatriation outside the standing agreements,” Hichem Fourati said according to La Repubblica.
Seehofer’s comments follow a fractious meeting at an EU conference on security and immigration in Vienna on Friday at which Salvini referred to African migrants as “slaves.”
When his Luxembourgish counterpart, Jean Asselborn tried to interrupt, Salvini told him: “Your opinion is not mine. Maybe in Luxembourg there’s a need for new immigration but in Italy there’s a need to help people have children.”
“They came as migrants and worked in Luxembourg so that you in Italy had money to pay for your children,” said Asselborn in response, before concluding: “Merde alors [fucking hell].”
Salvini later posted a video of the exchange at the behind-closed-doors meeting on Facebook, describing Luxembourg as, “a fiscal paradise,” that is not in a position to give lessons. “Don’t they have anyone more normal to be a minister?” he added.
At the same Vienna conference, Salvini and Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, presented a plan for asylum claims to be processed on boats at sea. This “quick way” would help solve the “problem of repatriation,” said Kickl according to the BBC.