Unilateralism not the answer to migrant crisis, says Spain's PM
Immigration and asylum Unilateralism not the answer to migrant crisis, says Spain's PM
Pedro SÃ¡nchez, in an interview with the Guardian, calls on a shared response from the EU
Unilateralism and inflammatory rhetoric are not the answer to the migration crisis, Spainâs new prime minister has said, as he called instead for a âshared response to a shared challengeâ as the leaders of a deeply divided EU gath er for a crucial two-day summit.Pedro SÃ¡nchez: from economics professor to Spain's prime minister Read more
In a joint interview with the Guardian, Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Pedro SÃ¡nchez said the European Union had to view migration as a common problem rather than one that affected only individual member states.
His comments came after both Italy and Malta turned away the 630 people on board the rescue ship Aquarius and Italyâs far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, referred to the migrants and refugees aboard another rescue boat as a cargo of âhuman fleshâ.
SÃ¡nchez, who was praised for announcing that Spain would take in the Aquarius, said the Italian governmentâs refusal to allow NGO rescue boats into its ports had done little to alleviate the situation in the Mediterranean.
âI think the Italian government needs to reflect on whether unilateralism is an effective response to a global challe nge such as migration,â he said. âIâm more in favour of cooperation. Itâs important to talk to the Libyan government about reinforcing border mechanisms in Libya.â
When a small boat arrives on the shores of Tarifa, or Malta, or Lesbos, itâs arriving in EuropePedro SÃ¡nchez
SÃ¡nchez did not mention Salvini by name, but when asked about the impact of the Italian ministerâs remarks, he said: âAs effective as the inflammatory rhetoric from some Italian leaders may be in electoral terms, from the point of view of responding effectively to a humanitarian crisis like the one weâre seeing in the Mediterranean and on the Italian coast, itâs not the answer.â
He said Europe would do better to focus on designating safe ports around the Mediterranean where rescued migrants could be looked after and processed in partnership with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
SÃ¡nchez said he and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, had already discussed the initiative and were keen to develop it further.
âAt the end of the day, I think the fundamental philosophy should be that when a small boat arrives on the shores of Tarifa, or Malta, or Lesbos, itâs arriving in Europe; itâs not arriving in Spain or Malta or Greece,â he said.
While the EU is sharply divided over how to manage refugees inside the bloc, it has proved far easier to agree on more action aimed at preventing people from arriving in Europe.
The Spanish prime minister said his countryâs decision to take in the Aquarius had been both a humanitarian imperative and a âcall for solidarityâ. He acknowledged that different EU members had different domestic concerns over migrant flows, but insisted that empathy and unity were the best way to deal with a challenge that would last for âmany, many yearsâ.Aquarius migrants arrive in Spain after rough week at sea Read more
He said: âYou need to understand Germanyâs social reality. You also have to understand the social realities in Italy and Greece and France and Spain. For me, the fundamental point is that you canât have a national or unilateral perspective when it comes to a shared challenge. Iâm calling for a shared response to a shared challenge.â
At their summit, EU leaders are expected to call for the development of migrant screening centres in north Africa, in a bid to deter people from making life-threatening sea crossings across the Mediterranean. A senior EU official insisted that the centres, known as âregional disembarkation platformsâ would not be migrant camps, while conceding it was not clear how they would work.
SÃ¡nchez, who is the leader of Spainâs socialist party, also said the idea of immigration centres in countries outside the EU was âsomething worth bearing in mind and exploringâ.
He became prime minister at the beginning of June after deposing hi s conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, in a no-confidence vote called amid rising anger over political corruption scandals.
Although keen to raise Spainâs international profile, much of SÃ¡nchezâs time is likely to be consumed by the intractable Catalan independence crisis he inherited from Rajoy.
The new prime minister said his immediate focus would be on reducing tensions following the tumultuous events of the autumn, which saw a unilateral declaration of Catalan independence by the government of the deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont, and the jailing of several members of his cabinet.Spain dissolves Catalan parliament and calls fresh elections Read more
SÃ¡nchez said the crisis would probably outlast this government and the next, adding it would require âa lot of dedication, generosity and timeâ.
He said the new Catalan president, Quim Torra, would have to respect the law and the unity of Spain, but said the Spanis h constitution could be reviewed once temperatures had cooled to re-examine the powers of Spainâs central and regional governments.
âThe constitution has the tools and mechanisms to recognise the diversity of the country and its territories, to guarantee equality between citizens and to resolve crises such as this one,â he said. âItâs difficult but itâs not impossible.â
However, he was adamant that self-determination would only fracture Catalonia still further.
âCatalan society is divided. Thereâs one bloc â" which isnât a majority â" that backs pro-independence parties. But thereâs also a bloc that doesnât, which favours the current state, the statute of autonomy and either increased decentralisation or even increased recentralisation,â said SÃ¡nchez.
âItâs a very diverse society, which is why you canât paint it as uniform in what it wants. I think that what the majority of Catalan society wants is a relationship between its distinct region and the rest of the country.â
The prime minister said his government was the fruit of recent changes in Spanish politics and society, citing his majority-female cabinet as an example.
âInternational opinion was surprised when Spain became the country with the most female cabinet ministers, but that was a simple consequence of [the feminist strike in Spain on] 8 March, when society came out against gender-based violence, the wage gap and in favour of pay and work equality for women. This gove rnment is also the result of that demand.â
Despite holding only 84 of 350 seats in congress, SÃ¡nchez claimed âthereâs a lot more consensus in parliament than there might seemâ and his government is pressing ahead with plans for labour reforms and the legalisation of euthanasia.
It has also said it would repeal key parts of Spainâs controversial âgag lawâ and make good on its promise to remove Francoâs remains from the vast mausoleum outside Madrid and turn the site into a place of national reconciliation.
âThe last government was governing against parliament,â said SÃ¡nchez. âThis government will govern with parliament.âTopics
- Immigration and asylum
- European Union
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