KRUEN, Germany (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned the EU on Monday it had to do more to deal with the tens of thousands of irregular migrants crossing into Europe but he dismissed a row among local governments over sharing the costs of accommodating them.
The European Commission last week proposed an emergency plan to take 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, two Mediterranean states where most migrants first arrive, and relocate them in other European Union countries.
The plan, agreed after the EU was shocked into action by the death of 800 migrants in an overcrowded fishing boat which capsized and sank in April, has already raised concerns in countries like France and Germany, which would have to take the lion’s share of the arrivals. However Renzi said the whole situation would have to be reviewed.
He said the total of 24,000 refugees currently in Italy who would be moved under the plan was “insufficient” and further work was needed at the next European summit on June 25-26.
“We need to recognise that the situation as it is isn’t working. We’ve set ourselves a timetable up to the next European Council meeting and we’ll try to get results,” Renzi told reporters after a meeting of leaders from the Group of Seven industrial powers in Germany.
The crisis has become one of the top priorities for the government, with Italy struggling to handle the tens of thousands of mainly African and Syrian migrants who have arrived on its southern shores since the beginning of the year.
Renzi has faced repeated attacks by the opposition Northern League party which has grown into the best supported party on the centre-right on the back of a strategy based around opposing accepting any more migrants.
On Sunday, Roberto Maroni, the Northern League governor of the prosperous Lombardy region said local mayors should no longer accept migrants assigned to them under national quotas designed to cut the burden on the southern regions where most migrants arrive.
Renzi said that many of the problems surrounding migrant reception centres stemmed from the period when Maroni was interior minister in the government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
“We’re not going to solve our problems by shouting more loudly but by fixing the problems created by those who are shouting loudly now,” he said.
Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Dominic Evans