PLANS FOR Europe-wide quotas for admission of immigrants are being pushed by Italy, which holds the EU presidency, in a drive to control the flow.
Rome has put the fight against illegal migration near the top of its agenda and says agreeing entry quotas with developing countries can help to secure their co-operation in fighting human trafficking.
The Italian government is also backing a European Commission proposal to co-ordinate policing of sea frontiers, which it hopes will pave the way for a common border police. Giuseppe Pisanu, the Interior Minister, said a bilateral deal between Rome and Sri Lanka, allowing in a limited number, had stopped the flow of illegal Sri Lankan migrants.
Italian officials plan to press ahead although, in negotiations over the EU's new draft constitution, Germany has insisted it must keep the national veto on immigration issues.
One option is that a group of nations could push ahead with a scheme if there is opposition from some of the 15 EU nations. The presidency is likely to win the support of the European Commission, which has long argued the EU faces a looming labour shortage because of its ageing population. Mr Pisanu said the "question of quotas is a national issue, but this should not prejudice the possibility of having a European system of quotas. I know this is a far-reaching objective but this should not stop us from studying it. We could start with a smaller group of countries."
Italy estimates 500,000 illegal immigrants arrive in Europe each year and Mr Pisanu said managing this flow through quotas would be to the advantage of European economies. …