Italy far-right minister furious after migrant deal

File Photo showing Matteo Salvini gestures during the television talk show "Porta a Porta" in Rome. (Reuters)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Italy far-right minister furious after migrant deal

  • Salvini has for months repeated that Italian ports are closed to migrants
  • Salvini demanded that other European nations fulfil their promises to take migrants from Italy

Rome: Italy’s populist coalition has reached agreement on the fate of 10 migrants the country agreed to take from Malta despite the fury of far-right anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Disagreement over the migrants, who arrived in Malta on Wednesday after being rescued in the Mediterranean and spending weeks stranded aboard an NGO vessel, has shaken Italy’s coalition.
Salvini, fellow deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, held talks late into the night on Wednesday.
“There is convergence within the government on a hard line: ports closed, fight against smugglers and NGOs,” Salvini said on Thursday.
“And I add that any new arrival must not cost Italian citizens a cent,” Salvini said, insisting that “it’s the interior ministry that handles immigration.”
While Salvini has for months repeated that Italian ports are closed to migrants, Di Maio last week said that Italy should take in several women and children rescued before Christmas but stranded at sea after no port would allow them to dock.
Conte, who was named premier by Salvini and Di Maio, agreed with the latter, whose M5S does not have the same hard-line anti-immigrant position as Salvini’s League.
Italy became one of eight EU nations that on Wednesday agreed to take in some migrants from Malta.
Salvini was infuriated by that decision and a compromise was agreed by which Italy’s Waldensian Evangelical Church would take in the 10 migrants.
The church has been involved with so-called “humanitarian corridors” that help asylum seekers come to Italy, assisting them with housing, Italian language learning and skills training.
But Salvini also demanded that other European nations fulfil their promises to take migrants from Italy.
In July 2018, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain and Malta agreed each to take in 50 of around 450 migrants disembarked in Sicily by the Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti after being rescued at sea.
According to Salvini, France has taken its 50, but Germany only 23, Spain 21, Portugal 19 and Malta none. Ireland, which said it would take in 20, has received 16 migrants, he said.
The Maltese government on Thursday voiced “disdain and surprise at the inaccurate allegations by Minister Salvini,” pointing out that Italy had promised to take 50 migrants from Malta and that the two countries had agreed the two deals cancel each other out.
Salvini remained adamant.
“We’re not going to take any lessons from Malta, which closed its eyes for years so that boats could head for Italy,” said Salvini.
“The music has changed, you can only come to Italy if you have a permit. We’ve already taken in too many, it’s time for others to wake up.”


Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

Updated 23 March 2019
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Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

  • Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil

JAKARTA: Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and EU to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over legislation that will phase out palm oil manufacturing in the region, risking jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.
“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.
“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.
Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.
Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.
“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.
Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.
“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.
Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.
On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.
Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.
“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.
“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.