Italy eyes 'technical control' of Schengen accord: Frattini
Italy does not want to renegotiate Europe's Schengen visa-free accords but favours some "technical control" to determine whether they are adapted to current realities, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Sunday.
In an interview with the daily Il Sole 24 Ore two days before a Franco-Italian summit that will be dominated by a festering row over immigration, he said the Schengen accords "which are one of the two pillars of Europe along with the euro, cannot be questioned."
"But the issue is to analyse how this instrument is adapted to our times and to a world which changes rapidly. In short, a technical control," he added.
"Nobody and neither France wants to damage the treaty," he said.
On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to huddle with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome to defuse tension over the row sparked by Italy's decision to accept thousands of Tunisians fleeing their country and to discuss the Libya conflict.
Paris has accused Rome of abusing the Schengen pact by issuing temporary residence permits and travel documents to migrants fleeing North Africa in the knowledge that many among the French-speaking Tunisians want to go to France.
France has close ties to former colony Tunisia, and many would-be migrants among the more than 20,000 Tunisians given papers by Italy have friends and relatives in French cities.
On April 18 France stopped trains from Italy carrying immigrants and their supporters, citing risks to public order, and Sarkozy's office has called for changes to the Schengen accord to allow it to suspend visa-free travel more easily.
Both Berlusconi and Sarkozy -- who faces elections in a year's time -- are under right-wing pressure on immigration from coalition partner the Northern League and from opponents the National Front, respectively.
Frattini meanwhile expressed hope that the European Investment Bank (EIB), the financial arm of the European Union, will extend 10 billion euros ($14.5 billion) in long-term financing to North African Mediterranean countries.
© 2011 AFP