Italy, France must work together on migrants: minister

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Rome and Paris must work together to resolve a row over Tunisian migrants trying to enter France that threatens to overshadow ties, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview Monday.

"The problem of immigration is becoming a bit like the nuclear issue. Everyone wants to say something about it but no-one wants it in their back garden," Frattini was quoted as saying by La Repubblica daily.

Frattini said a summit between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on April 26 should help "re-affirm the will of Italy and France to work together, as founders of the European Union."

La Repubblica said in an editorial that a decision by French authorities on Sunday to block trains coming from the Italian border town of Ventimiglia to block a pro-immigrant protest was "a slap in the face" for Italy.

"A growing wave of populism makes Italy and France similar but at the same time strengthens their dispute. The government in Rome depends on a xenophobic party," the Northern League part of Berlusconi's coalition, it said.

"A year from the presidential election in Paris, Nicolas Sarkozy is facing up to bad ratings ... and is trying to regain votes from the far right by insisting on an anti-immigrant approach," the editorial said.

Corriere della Sera said there was "a duel" between Italy and France.

Italy earlier this month said it would grant six-month residence permits to thousands of undocumented migrants from Tunisia who have been arriving on Italian shores in the wake of the Tunisian revolution in January.

The government in Rome says the permits allow the mainly French-speaking migrants to travel to France where many of them have friends and relatives. The French government has said it will turn the migrants back.

© 2011 AFP

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