“I’m happy in political terms, but unhappy in practical terms,” the Italian premier said during his traditional year-end news conference in Rome.Under the plan, some 160,000 asylum seekers from front-line countries such as Italy and Greece will be relocated to other countries across Europe over the next two years. To meet European Union targets, thousands would have to be moved around the continent every month.But, Mr. Renzi said, the EU plan was operating at around 0.2% of its intended relocation levels.
Renzi has been increasingly vocal about the asylum and redistribution scheme recently, arguing in an interview before Christmas that despite earlier failures, Italy is now living up to its responsibility to fingerprint and document refugees, while Germany, though criticizing others, was failing to do so.While some of what’s going on here is Renzi shifting blame for a political problem as Italy continues to be a destination for migrants and refugees, it’s hard not to conclude he’s put his finger on a real problem. The U.N. recently confirmed that Europe received over a million immigrants by sea alone this year, including 844,176 in Greece and 152,700 in Italy.Whether they are met or not, the redistribution goals, in other words, were just a drop in the bucket to begin with, and left many big problems unresolved. (See, for instance, this story about Iranians stranded in Greece.) And if the EU isn’t delivering even on this minimal redistribution scheme, long-term solutions will become harder to find than they already were. Meanwhile, as Renzi’s previous comments indicate, this crisis is (like the euro crisis before it) wearing on North-South relations within the EU, and in the spring, crossings will likely increase again with the warm weather. Stay tuned . . .