Ocean Viking: The first real diplomatic crisis between France and Italy?

Ocean Viking: The first real diplomatic crisis between France and Italy?

The French government denounced the stance on Thursday (10 November). “incomprehensible and unacceptable” Italy, which has been at sea for more than 15 days refusing to take on the migrant passengers of the ship Ocean Viking, sparking what may be the first diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

After the Council of Ministers on Thursday (10 November), Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that France will be the host country “exceptionally” the NGO SOS Méditerranée’s ship Ocean Viking and launched a harsh attack on the Italian government of Giorgia Meloni, which had been in office for less than three weeks.

The presence of the Minister of the Interior at the press conference at the end of the Council of Ministers, which is usually only moderated by the government spokesman, is further evidence of the seriousness of the crisis between France and Italy.

Violation of international law by Italy

« The humanitarian situation on the ship Ocean Viking […] calls for immediate action”said French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

The 234 people on board, all rescued at sea after their boats sank, are walking “very significant risks” after more than 15 days of navigation. Including 57 children and the sick.

France will therefore welcome the Ocean Viking to its military port of Toulon, but believes that the ship was “Without any possible dispute over the Italian search and rescue zone”.

Hence the French anger: it existed for the French interior minister “Under international law and the law of the sea, there is no doubt that it is incumbent on Italy to determine without delay a port of safety for the reception of this boat.”.

Since Italy did not do this, the French authorities did “determined to overcome [le] unacceptable behavior of the Italian government” and, explained the minister, France deeply regrets that Italy has decided not to behave like a responsible European state”.


Words of rare harshness towards a historic partner like Italy, accompanied by retaliatory measures from France.

While France was supposed to relocate 3,500 refugees in 2023, the minister declared this in favor of Italy “Suspend all moves […] and calls on all other participants in the European Mechanism, in particular Germany, to do the same.”.

Germany had also pledged to relocate 3,500 people and, at the time of writing, has not indicated whether or not it will follow France.

Added to this is a “Strengthening controls at internal borders [de la France] with Italy ». But above all, Mr. Darmanin, heavyweight of the Macronists, announced this episode “Extremely strong impact on bilateral relations and on the relationship between Europe and the Italian government”.

A boomerang effect adopted by the French government to confront Giorgia Meloni and her government with their contradictions and, above all, to show them that this type of action has consequences.

Indeed, stresses Mr. Darmanin, “Italy has accepted several NGO boats on its soil for several days”. However, this was not the case for the Ocean Viking, which may indicate an attitude that is more a matter of internal communication towards one’s public opinion.

European Solidarity and Response

Definitely, “Italy places itself outside of European solidarity and its obligations”what can have “Extremely strong impact on bilateral relations [franco-italienne] and on the relationship between Europe and the Italian government”explains the French minister.

and “Italy [n’a] not complied with this duty of humanity”It’s good the Italian government [qui] is a loser” in this story, and who bears the consequences of having placed themselves “outside European solidarity and its obligations”.

The French interior minister also announced that France, Germany and the European Commission would organize “A meeting that makes it possible to draw the conclusions of the Italian position [et] to better regulate sea rescue operations by NGO ships in the Mediterranean”.

He also claims to have exchanged views with many of his European colleagues who “Everyone is aware that we have to organize things differently now, so that Italy cannot selfishly exploit solidarity”.

Whereas “Italy had to take in these people”Mr Darmanin even goes so far as to mention the possibility “legal consequences” the decision of Mrs. Meloni’s government, which, he castigates again, is “unacceptable and incomprehensible” and show them “Lack of humanity and professionalism” Italian authorities.

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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